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Condair calls for industry action over humidity influenza link

Manufacturer seeks to build awareness of how specific levels of humidity in environments such as offices may limit the spread of flu

The building services sector must do more to ensure indoor humidity that can better curb the spread of seasonal influenza, a leading technology supplier has argued during the launch of a new initiative to provide free hygrometers to monitor work environments.

Condair has said that the use of humidity controls is a vital tool to prevent dryer conditions that can allow influenza to thrive, yet there is no legislative requirement on healthcare facilities or public areas to maintain specific humidity levels in the air.

Company sales hear Tim Scott argued that a wide body of scientific evidence has shown a reduction in person-to-person airborne flu infections in areas where indoor humidity is recorded between 40 per cent relative humidity (RH) and 60 per cent RH.

He said, “Without humidification most indoor environments will drop below 40 per cent RH for a substantial duration during the winter. It is in this dry danger zone that infectious airborne flu germs survive for many hours.”

“It has been proven that maintaining a room’s air at above 40 per cent RH results in the airborne flu virus becoming deactivated five times faster, which results in a significant reduction in cross-infections, less absenteeism and improved occupant health.”

The comments have been made as part of Condair’s ‘Humidity Fights Flu Campaign’ that will see the company offering free desktop hygrometers to individuals working in office, education or healthcare environments to assist with testing humidity levels.

According to the company, a survey conducted during 2017 of individuals at the offices of some 290 contractors or HVAC consultancies found certain cases of humidity levels approaching 20 per cent RH. The same findings concluded that the average humidity level in the surveyed properties was below industry recommendations of 38 per cent RH.

Tim Scott said that the issue of humidity and its potential impacts on managing the spread of influenza was pertinent at a time where the NHS is reporting some of the highest levels of flu cases for seven years over the last month.

He said, “Even putting aside the building services sector’s moral obligation to protect the health of its buildings’ occupants, humidity control for health makes obvious financial sense. Staff costs typically account for 90 per cent of business expenditure and respiratory infections are the primary cause of short term absenteeism. Combine this cost to the business economy with the financial burden seasonal flu has on our health service and the cost of humidity control as a preventative measure in offices, educational and healthcare facilities pales into insignificance.”

The company is also publishing the summaries of a number of scientific studies on its website that it said sets out how ambient humidity can impact influenz

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