Is Your Humidifier Making You Sick?

For many people, the winter months can mean the start of irritated, dry sinuses, congestion, sore throats and coughing. Humidifiers are often a source of relief from these annoyances, but they can also bring on dangerous and unforeseen consequences.

If not used properly and maintained according to the the manufacturer’s instructions, humidifiers can actually worsen symptoms and even cause disease in the body.

By failing to change their filters regularly or by not thoroughly cleaning and drying humidifiers according to their instructions, mold, bacteria and dust mites can grow inside of them. These microbes are then released into the air the next time the humidifier is used, potentially finding their way into the lungs and triggering allergic reactions, asthma, other lung related illnesses such as pneumonia and laying the groundwork for future disease in the body.

Humidifiers also require distilled water from a trusted source. Current research has shown that humidifiers can dissolve the trace minerals,  metals, chemicals and other contaminants found in your average drinking water into a breathable form that can promote disease in the body.

In a new study published in Environmental Engineering Science, researchers found this when they tested 5 different types of drinking water which contained varying levels of minerals and heavy metals. They discovered that 85-90% of the trace minerals and metals found in the water became airborne with the ability to invade the lungs.

Research has shown that inhaling minerals can lead to serious lung inflammation and impairment. Inhaling neurotoxic metals (manganese, lead, copper, to name a few) could have equally damaging effects. Lead poisoning, for instance, can lead to such things as neurological damage, including reduced motor and cognitive function; abdominal, muscle and joint pain and mood changes.

This concern should be especially high for those with children, since such exposure could potentially be very harmful to the lungs and brain at a time when they are developing so rapidly.

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent your humidifier from making you and your family sick:

  • Only use distilled water from a trusted source. Some manufacturer’s suggest using demineralized water, but the demineralizing process does not remove all traces of minerals and metals.
  • Clean humidifiers according to the manufacturer’s instructions and change their filters regularly.
  • Ensure that any mineral build-up inside the system is removed on a regular basis (according to the manufacturer’s instructions).
  • Make sure that the humidifier setting isn’t so high that it promotes the growth of mold in your home. The humidity level of your home / room should not exceed 50%. A hygrometer can help you monitor this.
  • When not in use, keep the humidifier clean and empty. Ensure that all parts are completely dry before storing.
  • If somebody in your home is allergic to mold or dust mites, or has asthma, talk to your doctor before using a humidifier.



“Emission of Inhalable Dissolved Drinking Water Constituents by Ultrasonic Humidifiers.” Environmental Engineering Science. December 2015, 32(12): 1027-1035.

“Humidifiers and Indoor Allergies.”American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 

“Inhalation Lung Injury associated with humidifier ‘white dust.” Pediatrics. 2011 Feb;127(2):e509-12. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-1312. Epub 2011 Jan 3.

“Lead Poisoning – Symptoms.”


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