New Study Shows Why You Should Never Use Tap Water In Your Humidifiers and Diffusers
There are between 80,000 – 120,000 products with industrial chemicals and heavy metals that are virtually unregulated – to which the modern world is now exposed. One glass of tap water can contain 12 major chemicals and heavy metals, plus hundreds of other toxic residues that seep into the water tables and even show up in urine.
Indeed, now, more than ever, it’s time to not only think about the food and water one consumes, but also the air, water and materials absorbed through the skin and lungs. These are believed to be more effective transports of materials – good or bad – into the body, blood and brain.
That’s why this new study is so important to understand – it’s a wake-up call to really stop and think about what you use when you breath vapors, immerse yourself in water, what you wash your clothes and sheets in and even exposure to steam and inhalants from ultrasonic humidifiers.
This is not to scare you – as the researchers below are not trying to scare you – but it is to bring your nearby environment into your awareness so that you are not unwittingly exposing yourself to harmful materials all the while thinking you are practicing natural health – such as when you leave a diffuser filled with essential oils running in your bedroom all night long. Please see a couple suggestions below the article.
New Rochelle, NY, November 24, 2015–A new study of five drinking water samples of different quality shows that ultrasonic humidifiers aerosolize and emit dissolved contaminants that can be inhaled, including minerals and metals.
For an ultrasonic humidifier, 90% of the aerosols formed are in the respirable range, which may have negative effects on human health depending on the quality of the water source, as reported in the study published in Environmental Engineering Science, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available to download for free on the Environmental Engineering Science website until December 24, 2015.
In “Emission of Inhalable Dissolved Drinking Water Constituents by Ultrasonic Humidifiers”, Amanda Sain and Andrea Dietrich, Virginia Polytechnic and State University (Blacksburg), describe the results of testing five different water quality types in ultrasonic humidifiers. The drinking water samples used to fill the humidifiers ranged from low to high levels of total dissolved solids (a common measure of mineral content), hardness, and iron content. The researchers evaluated the aerosols emitted for the range of particle sizes and for evidence of dissolved metal and nonmetal constituents.
From the paper:
Possible human health risks associated with humidifier use are well documented. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA, 1991a) recommends the use of distilled water in humidifiers and regular maintenance and cleaning of humidifier units, but typical consumer usage characteristics, such as source water quality, refilling habits, and maintenance activities for household humidifiers, are not known. The US EPA (1991a) warns consumers that humidifiers can aerosolize microbes, which may proliferate within the humidifier and lead to respiratory infection or humidifier fever (Edwards, 1980). Ultrasonic humidifiers are known to disseminate microbes more readily than other humidifier types and produce an aerosol in the inhalable range, increasing potential inhalation exposures (Highsmith et al., 1988; Tyndall et al., 1995).
In addition to aesthetic concerns, drinking waters with high TDS also contain dissolved metals, which may include those with known negative human health impacts when inhaled. Lead is a well-known neurotoxin when inhaled and although regulated not to exceed 0.15 μg/L in air and to an action level of 0.015 mg/L in tap water, dissolved and particulate lead has been shown to exceed the action level in consumers’ tap water (US EPA, 1991b, 2008; ATSDR,2007; Edwards et al., 2009; Pieper et al., 2015).
Inhalation of manganese has detrimental neurological impacts, including reduced motor and cognitive function, mood changes, and manganism, a progressive syndrome with Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms (ATSDR, 2012). The aerosolization of drinking waters with elevated concentrations of these or other neurotoxic metals with an ultrasonic humidifier may present an inhalation exposure source resulting in negative impacts on human health.
Aerosols emitted by an ultrasonic humidifier that produced a white dust that contained calcium, magnesium and other minerals was shown to negatively impact the health of an infant sleeping in the room (Daftary and Deterding,2011). This white dust has been confirmed to expose the lung tissue of mice to dissolved water constituents (Umezawa et al., 2013).
“This is a very interesting study that identifies another path of human uptake of constituents in drinking water–that of inhalation,” says Domenico Grasso, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Engineering Science and Provost, University of Delaware.
Results indicated that inhalable aerosols represent exposure to dissolved constituents present in source water. Source water quality impacts the concentrations of dissolved water constituents in the humidifier reservoir and expelled respirable-sized aerosols.
Overall, the aerosol concentrations are 85–90% of the humidifier reservoir concentration at the corresponding time. This indicates that if potentially hazardous metals like lead are in the source water, they will be expelled as an aerosol at a similar concentration present in the water. One important exception is in the case of precipitation. If precipitation of minerals occurs in the reservoir, the concentrations present in the humidifier reservoir and condensed water aerosols do not follow typical patterns. Source waters with lowest possible levels of metals and other dissolved constituents should be used in ultrasonic humidifiers to reduce inhalation exposure and protect human health.
Natural Blaze note: as the researchers note – the cleanest possible water should be used in any type of humidifier, ultrasonic humidifier or diffuser. The majority of whatever is present in the water can be taken up by the lungs. If you’d like to diffuse essential oils but would rather skip the vapors – consider this raindrop oil diffuser that doesn’t use heat or water. You might also like this non-electric pot that doubles as a geometric decoration. Least expensive of all are tealight warmers.
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