It's Your Health
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Many Canadians use portable cool-mist humidifiers to increase moisture levels in the air inside their homes. When used as directed by the manufacturer, these products are safe. But using one without properly cleaning and disinfecting it on a regular basis could lead to breathing problems if you have asthma, severe allergies, or other respiratory difficulties.
There are three types of portable humidifiers:
Portable humidifiers are not likely to cause health problems if you follow the manufacturer's directions. This usually means:
With cool-mist humidifiers, there is a risk of health effects if water is left sitting from one use to the next because:
These bacteria or spores could then make matters worse for people who already have problems breathing.
Many consumers have concerns after using cool-mist humidifiers because they notice tiny dust-like particles on furniture nearby. Some models may release high concentrations of the particles into the air when they are filled with tap water.
These particles are made of the same materials that cause the build-up of scale inside kettles, and are considered harmless to most people. But if the tap water used in the cool-mist humidifier contains toxic substances, there is a risk that the particles could be harmful. The number of particles released into the air is generally much lower when using distilled water. However, tap water is fine in most cases, as long as you change the water and clean your humidifier on a regular basis.
These steps will help reduce your risk when using a cool-mist humidifier:
Measure your indoor humidity level with a hygrometer and keep the humidity at around 50% in the summer and 30% in the winter to prevent mould growth. If necessary, you can use a dehumidifier to reduce the relative humidity.
Health Canada helps protect Canadians from health risks and safety hazards associated with consumer products like humidifiers. As part of this work, we may:
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-267-1245*
Updated: May, 2012
Original: November 2001
ęHer Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2012
Catalogue # H13-7/120-2012E-PDF
ISBN # 978-1-100-20669-1