Monday, March 5, 2012

Humidifiers, Can some of them do more harm than good?

I live in Minnesota and if one thing’s true about Minnesota other than our cold winters it’s that the air in my home will be dry. To combat this we use a humidifier at night in our kids’ rooms as a way of getting some moisture in their air. We had an older humidifier model that required the use of a filter which was a major pain b/c we rarely changed the filter. Within the past year we made the switch to a newer model that was filter-less and cool. Both my husband and I were pleased with the results and we liked that we didn’t have to use a filter. There was something thought that we didn’t like about the humidifier – this white, chalky dust began appearing everywhere in the room that the humidifier was in.

We didn’t think anything of this dust. It was just an annoyance b/c it would cause the CD player in my son’s room to skip which meant we were constantly cleaning both the player and the CD. It wasn’t until my mom started experiencing breathing problems and sought help from her allergist that she and I started to put two and two together. We realized that we both had this white dust in our homes wherever the humidifier was placed. We decided to stop using the humidifiers. Overnight, my mom felt better and I decided that I couldn’t let whatever this junk was near my kids’ lungs. The other scary thing that she noticed was that since November the flame on her gas burning stove was yellow – not blue. The gas company came out as well as the appliance company came out. There was nothing wrong with the stove or the gas line so it was determined that the yellow flame was because of the air quality in my parents’ home. Well, after ridding the house of the white dust and the humidifiers the flame on the stove is blue again. The air is clean.

So what is it? The white dust contains minerals and microorganisms from the unfiltered water in your home. The particles are so small that they do enter your airways and then get into your lungs. The data is limited as these kinds of humidifiers are new to the market; however, as you can see from the way my mom responded, a build up of this dust can be detrimental to your breathing and the air quality in your home.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the best way to use these humidifiers is by putting distilled or de-mineralized water into the machine. You should not use plain tap water as the mineral content is higher. Also purified water does not rid the water of minerals as well as the de-mineralizing process. Bottled water that’s called spring, artesian, or mineral still contain minerals in them. The EPA also suggests cleaning your humidifier every three days to make certain that scale, a build up in the humidifier, stays at bay. Scale can produce fungi and/or bacteria.

The other thing you can do is purchase a humidifier that has a filter in it or look into your humidifier’s filtering options. You never know, there might be a filter out there for your product that’ll help keep the yuckies away!

Elizabeth (aka Bert) Anderson married her college sweetheart in 2005, and started her journey into motherhood in 2008 with the birth of her son.  She started blogging in 2009 as a way to keep track of her thoughts on being a first time mom, especially her struggle with postpartum depression, and as a way of reaching out to other moms who are struggling with the same things.  This June, Bert had another first in her motherhood travels - a little girl!  Even though she's newly a mother of two, Bert maintains that no matter how many children you have you will always be a "first time mom" because there's a first time for everything!  Visit her blog, at FTM. Bert is a contributor for She Thinks Media.