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The Effects of High Humidity on Indoor Air Quality

When you think about home comfort, the temperature might be the first thing that comes to mind. However, humidity is also a critical component of indoor comfort and air quality. Dry air is a concern in the winter, but high humidity can be even more damaging in the summer. Learn how buildings can become too humid and why a damp interior is detrimental.

What Causes High Indoor Humidity?

The following can cause moisture both inside and outside of a building:

  • Roofs may leak, allowing rain and snow to get inside.
  • Plumbing can leak, either from potable supplies or sewer piping.
  • Moisture in the soil can enter through fissures in the home’s foundation.
  • Hot, humid outdoor air can leak inside through gaps in the building envelope.
  • Daily activities such as cooking, washing dishes, showering, and even breathing release moisture into the air.
  • Flooding may cause structural materials to soak up water.

Why is High Indoor Humidity a Problem?

In the winter when the air is dry, you may run a humidifier to make your home more comfortable. However, problems arise when the relative humidity climbs above 50 percent. Here’s why:

  • High humidity promotes mold growth: Mold is everywhere, but excessive dampness can lead to unhealthy levels of growth. When a mold colony releases reproductive spores, building occupants may inhale them, sometimes causing allergic reactions, respiratory issues, or even a weakened immune system.
  • Dust mites thrive in humid environments: Since dust mites absorb water from the air rather than drinking it, they only live in moist settings. These microscopic arthropods feed on skin flakes and other components of dust found inside buildings. Dust mite droppings and fragments of their dead bodies are common allergens, which may be inhaled when they become airborne.
  • Dampness increases the emissions of gaseous chemicals: The rate at which some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) release from certain building materials increases in high humidity. Examples include formaldehyde found in manufactured wood products and alcohols from softening products used in many plastics. These chemicals are known sources of odor and irritation.

How to Lower Indoor Humidity

If you see mold growth, notice musty or chemical odors, or experience heightened allergy symptoms at home, high humidity could be the underlying cause. Follow these tips to help lower the humidity level and get problems with mold, dust mites, and VOCs under control:

  • Fix roof and plumbing leaks immediately.
  • Install a moisture barrier in the unfinished basement or crawlspace.
  • Seal the air gaps in your home’s external envelope.
  • Run exhaust fans in the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room while generating excessive moisture.
  • Dry the building thoroughly after water damage has occurred.

If humid conditions are causing mold growth in your home, DKI Services can facilitate the mold remediation process and help you implement tips to lower indoor humidity. Contact us today to learn more about mold cleanup, water damage resoration, and our other remediation services.