Portable ultrasonic humidifier exacerbates indoor bioaerosol risks by raising bacterial concentrations and fueling pathogenic genera

Indoor Air. 2021 Nov 27. doi: 10.1111/ina.12964. Online ahead of print.


Portable ultrasonic humidifiers are frequently used in heating rooms to ease air dryness. However, it has also posed serious health concerns such as “humidifier fever” because the bioaerosol concentration and community in the humidified space may alter quickly before the occupants could even notice. We compared the microbial proliferation rates in the humidifiers’ reservoirs filled with three commonly used water types and investigated the impacts of the ultrasonic humidifiers on the temporal concentration, size distribution, and community variations of indoor bacterial and fungal aerosols during two-week humidification. The concentration of indoor bacterial aerosols increased exponentially, concentrating in the respiratory size ranges (≤1.1 µm), and was proportional to the humidification level, which soon exceeded 1000 CFU/m3 in one week (at RH = 70%), while the fungal concentration always remained low (≤177 CFU/m3 ). The indoor bioaerosol community, significantly associated with the humidifier water, was substantially distorted after humidification and dominated by the pathogenic Pseudomonas spp. (40.50%), Brevundimonas spp. (3.02%), Acinetobacter spp. (0.98%) and Legionella spp. (0.69%). Our results show that ultrasonic humidification contaminates indoor air by raising bacterial concentrations and fueling the pathogenic genera. To minimize the exposure risks, occupants should avoid long-term and excessive humidification (RH ≥ 70%) and clean the ultrasonic humidifier weekly.

PMID:34837421 | DOI:10.1111/ina.12964

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