Have you ever been in a work environment that just made you feel sticky and hot the entire time? You can consider humidity as the culprit for that distressing feeling.
Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. Humidity is a natural part of our atmosphere. It generally comes from water evaporating from lakes, seas and oceans. Indoors, humidity can enter through leaky pipes and cracks, rising damp, installation of dehumidifiers and humidifiers, and even breathing. When there is too much water vapor in the air, it can cause humidity to rise, and the higher the humidity, the wetter it feels indoors. When humidity level is too low, it means that there is a very small amount of water vapor in the air, making it feel very dry.
The US Environmental Protection Agency or US EPA recommends keeping indoor humidity levels between 30% to lower than 60%, if possible. Building health and sustainability certification bodies have also included humidity control as part of their indoor air quality requirements. In fact, WELL certification requires applicants to install ventilation systems with the capability to maintain humidity between 30% to 50% at all times by adding or removing moisture from the air.
The effects of unbalanced humidity
Both too high and too low humidity levels have consequences on health and on the built environment itself. High humidity can contribute to mold growth which can cause stuffiness, eye irritation, and lung infections. Moisture-rich work areas can also be breeding ground for dust mites which can cause allergic reactions and asthma for vulnerable people. Additionally, high humidity can lead to heat stroke and can disrupt work productivity by making employees feel lethargic.
Low humidity can lead to dry air which causes employees to experience dry throat, headaches, and sore eyes. In some workplaces, it can increase static electricity which damages work tools and equipment. Static electricity often manifests in static shocks whenever employees touch certain objects such as doorknobs and keyboards.
Managing humidity at work
The negative effects of unbalanced humidity are indeed alarming. These effects can put damage on employee health, work performance, and eventually, on the entire organization’s growth. But the good news is, simple solutions can help improve humidity levels at work. Some of them are:
- Watch out for spills and leaks – make sure to have leaks and spills cleaned up and wet rugs and carpets are dried out. If there is a leak in plumbing somewhere in the facility, make sure to contact an expert to help you check and repair any leaks.
- Ventilate – If possible, try opening windows particularly in high-moisture areas such as comfort rooms. Also, make sure that ventilation fans are properly working.
- Monitor humidity – Is there a way to determine how high or low the humidity is? Yes! Thanks to technology, businesses and built environments can now continuously monitor different factors that can affect indoor air quality, including humidity. By monitoring humidity, business leaders and building owners can visualize fluctuations, identify problem sources, and make data-driven decisions to improve indoor air quality and achieve the right humidity levels for workplaces.
Additionally, the continuous monitoring and management of the air you breathe can help you obtain points for green and healthy building certifications like RESET, WELL, and Fitwel, and comply with health standards set by the government and other health organizations you follow.