OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of humidification on the odour, acceptability, and stuffiness of indoor air. METHODS: In a six period cross over trial at the Pasila Office Center, Helsinki, the air of two wings of the building in turn were ventilated with air of 30%-40% humidity. A third wing served as a non-humidified control area. The quality of indoor air was assessed weekly by a panel containing 18 to 23 members. The intraindividual differences in the ratings for odour, stuffiness, and acceptability between humidified and non-humidified wings were used to assess the effect of humidification. The roles of sex, current smoking, and age as potential effect modifiers were assessed by comparing the mean intraindividual differences in ratings between the groups. RESULTS: Humidified air was found to be more odorous and stuffy (paired t test P = 0.0001) and less acceptable than the non-humidified air (McNemar's test P < 0.001). The differences in odour and stuffiness between humidified and non-humidified air were greater for women and for non-smokers, and greatest differences were in the youngest age group, and least in the oldest age group. The differences were not significant. CONCLUSIONS: An untrained panel of 20 members is able to differentiate a slight malodour and stuffiness in indoor air. The results suggest that steam air humidification decreases the perceived air quality. This effect is strongest in women and young subjects.
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