The dichotomy of relative humidity on indoor air quality.
Indoor Environment Group, National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Lersø Parkallé 105, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dry and irritated mucous membranes of the eyes and airways are common symptoms reported in office-like environments. Earlier studies suggested that indoor pollutants were responsible. We have re-evaluated, by review of the literature, how low relative humidity (RH) may influence the immediately perceived indoor air quality (IAQ), including odour, and cause irritation symptoms (i.e. longer-term perceived IAQ). "Relative humidity" were searched in major databases, and combined with: air quality, cabin air, dry eyes, formaldehyde, inflammation, mucous membranes, offices, ozone, pungency, sensory irritation, particles, precorneal tear film, sick building syndrome, stuffy air, and VOCs. The impact of RH on the immediately and longer-term perceived IAQ by VOCs, ozone, and particles is complex, because both the thermodynamic condition and the emission characteristics of building materials are influenced. Epidemiological, clinical, and human exposure studies indicate that low RH plays a role in the increase of reporting eye irritation symptoms and alteration of the precorneal tear film. These effects may be exacerbated during visual display unit work. The recommendation that IAQ should be "dry and cool" may be useful for evaluation of the immediately perceived IAQ in material emission testing, but should be considered cautiously about the development of irritation symptoms in eyes and upper airways during a workday. Studies indicate that RH about 40% is better for the eyes and upper airways than levels below 30%. The optimal RH may differ for the eyes and the airways regarding desiccation of the mucous membranes.
PMID: 17499853 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]