Home Humidifiers & Legionaires’ Disease

Written By: Li Cross

Home Humidifiers Can Cause Legionnaires’ Disease. Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia, is caused by bacteria called Legionella. The bacteria got its name in 1976, when a number of people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion suffered from an outbreak of the illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionella bacteria grow best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems or parts of the air-conditioning systems of large buildings. This bacteria also grows in our homes. People get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in a mist or vapor (small droplets of water in the air) that has been contaminated with the bacteria. “Warm-mist humidifiers distill the water and only emit water molecules. “Cold mist humidifiers, on the other hand, are like paint sprayers, and they take whatever is in the water reservoir and make a droplet out of it. Unfortunately, even distilled water placed in non-sterile reservoirs will grow bacteria after a few hours and the mold spores in the crevices of such containers are ready to spring to life immediately.” Ultrasonic models are worse. “They ‘weaponize’ the droplets by making them so small that they waft down into the lungs rather than stopping in the nasal passages, sinuses, middle ear spaces, and larger airways,”.  A Home Humidifier or Vaporizer  is recommended for optimal health during the winter months. Our homes can become dryer than the Sahara Desert. To keep our sinuses flowing properly we need the added moisture, but at what risk? Some pediatricians started recommending the cold-mist models after reports of children being burned by touching warm mist units. A warm mist unit placed out of reach solves the problem. (A fan behind a warm-mist humidifier or vaporizer distributes moisturized air more efficiently and prevents steam from peeling the paint on the ceiling above the unit.) The cold mist models have been proven to spread the bacteria through the house and into the lungs of those who live there. If you own a Home-Humidifier, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully or replace it with a hot mist model and keep it out of reach of children. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following suggestions for maintaining home humidifiers:

  • Do not allow film and scale to develop in your unit. Change the water in your humidifier daily.
  • Use distilled water instead of tap water, which contains minerals. Use demineralization cartridges or filters if recommended for use with your unit and change regularly.

  *For more information – Contact the US Consumer Product Safety Commission or google the subject for scientific studies and official  reports of the results.

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