Does low humidity cause more dust? You may already know the role of keeping humidity levels in check to feel comfortable.
However, you may not be aware of how humidity can have an impact on dust in the air. And that is when many people ask, “Does humidity increase dust?”
Maybe, increased humidity is one of the reasons why you notice your dust allergy becoming so severe. Or is it something else?
Yes, low humidity may be responsible for causing more dust mainly by creating dry conditions, leading to a lack of precipitation, lowering static charge, and so on.
What is Considered Low Humidity?
Low humidity is a state in which there is a small amount of water vapor in the air.
In general, humidity levels below 30%-40% are considered low; however, this threshold might vary based on climate and region.
For instance, humidity can dip to 10% or lower in deserts and other extremely dry locations.
Although temperature, wind speed, and individual tolerance all have a role in how noticeable humidity feels, just remember these variables alone do not tell the whole story.
Is Low Humidity Bad for Your Health?
Decreased humidity levels may be harmful to human health in many ways.
- Dry air exacerbates preexisting respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, and allergies.
- Dry skin and a sore throat are the results of low humidity that may make life miserable.
- Dry nasal passages can make it easier for viruses and bacteria to enter the body.
Humidity levels should be between 30 and 50 percent to reduce the risk of various health problems and increase comfort and well-being.
Does Low Humidity Cause More Dust?
Yes, it is possible to notice more dust in the air just because of low humidity.
And there are many different factors at play, including the following:
- Dry Conditions
- Lack of Precipitation
- Low Static Charge
- Indoor Heating
- Lack of Vegetation
Let’s dig deeper into the details of how these issues caused by low humidity can increase dust particles in the air.
Fact: About 80% of the household dust is the combination of clothing fibers, pollen, mite carcasses, dander, and mite droppings.
Dry Conditions Causing Dust
Low humidity makes air drier, and in dry conditions, dust is more likely to become dispersed through the atmosphere.
Under low humidity, dust particles are less heavily bound to the ground and can be blown around by even light breezes.
An increase in atmospheric dust may result from the following processes triggered by dry air:
Low humidity can cause soil to become dry and loose, making it more susceptible to erosion.
Erosion might cause additional dust to be released into the air.
Increased Static Electricity
Air that is too dry can have a higher concentration of static electricity.
In some cases, this can increase the likelihood that dust particles will adhere to surfaces such as human skin and hair.
People and animals are a major source of dispersion for airborne dust, so this can make the problem worse.
Low Moisture in the Air
Dry air indicates a low humidity level since moisture levels in the air are reduced.
This can make the dust less dense, making it easier for the wind to carry it.
That is probably the reason why dust can become airborne and linger in the atmosphere for extended periods.
Low-humidity areas tend to be arid, meaning few plants can survive there.
Interestingly, soil binding and dust suppression are two benefits plants can provide.
Without plants to keep the soil from drying up and becoming dusty, the amount of dust in the air might rise.
Lack of Precipitation Causing More Dust
Having less rain in low-humidity areas implies the earth can dry up and become dusty.
And less precipitation can lead to dry, dusty conditions, increasing airborne dust particles.
Precipitation like rain and snow can aid in dust control by bringing the dust to the ground and washing it out of the air.
There would be more dust in the air because dust particles would float around for longer without any precipitation to wash them away.
Here is the most common way how less precipitation can increase the chances of more dust in the air:
Low Humidity Causing Dry Soil
The soil might dry out and get dusty if there is a lack of rain.
Erosion of dry soil increases the potential for the emission of airborne dust.
Dust particles in dry soil are picked up very easily and carried by the wind, which might then deposit them elsewhere.
Fact: Dust can be exacerbated by human activities such as driving on unpaved roads, building, and agricultural practices when precipitation is scarce.
Low Static Charge Causing More Dust
The presence of less static charge might actually promote the growth of dust in a given area.
Static energy can aid in attracting and holding onto dust particles.
But when the static charge is weak, the connection between the surface and the dust particles is diminished.
This allows the dust to be more easily removed and moved around.
Because the dust particles are less likely to stick together when the surrounding air has a low static charge, more dust will accumulate in some areas than others.
Because of difficulties for air filters and cleaning equipment in removing dust particles from the air, areas with low static charge can collect dust considerably more quickly.
An Important Consideration
Maintaining a healthy static charge can help keep dust to a minimum in any given space.
This can be achieved in many ways, including:
- The use of static control devices like ionizers or humidifiers
- Grounding of surfaces
- Routine cleaning and maintenance of equipment and surfaces
Indoor Heating Lowering Humidity and Causing More Dust
There are a number of reasons why indoor heating might increase dust in the air and on surfaces.
To begin, indoor dust might become more easily dispersed when heating systems dry the air.
Static charge forms in dry air, attracting and holding onto dust particles.
Similarly, air currents produced by heating systems can spread dust all throughout a building.
This is because air currents are formed when warm air rises and cool air sinks.
And these currents can transport dust from one location to another.
Finally, changes in air pressure within the building brought on by the heating system can push dust particles out of cracks and crevices and into the air.
An Important Consideration
It is important to note that heating systems can make the indoors cozy and inviting.
This often prompts people and pets to shed more skin cells and hair, thus adding to the already present dust.
Fact: Typically, dust particles will float around for about five days before settling, and even after it does, there are always more to take its place.
Lack of Vegetation Causing More Dust
As mentioned, vegetation mitigates dust in many ways, and its absence can have the opposite effect.
Here is a bit about how a lack of vegetation resulting from low humidity can cause more dust:
Plants Anchor the Soil
First, plant roots help to anchor the soil, which reduces the risk of soil erosion and dust.
Vegetation clearing can expose soil to wind erosion, which in turn can increase dust generation and spread it further.
Plants Increase Humidity
Plants expel moisture into the air through a process called transpiration.
It can raise the air’s relative humidity and decrease the dust that can be carried by the wind.
Vegetation removal reduces rainfall and hence reduces the amount of water vapor in the air, which might lead to an increase in dust.
An Important Consideration
It is worth mentioning that plants have the ability to avoid windborne dust by trapping dust particles on their leaves and branches.
That is the reason why deforestation can lead to an increase in the dust because it creates more open areas where particles have less chance of sticking.
Fact: Airborne dust poses a serious danger to the aviation sector, considering the annual amount of dust released into Earth's atmosphere is around five billion tons.
Does low humidity cause more dust? It certainly can.
The truth is that low humidity can increase airborne dust due to dryness, lack of precipitation, low static charge, indoor heating, etc.
Many issues, including difficulty breathing and impaired visibility, have been linked to this rise in airborne dust particles.
Air filters, keeping indoor humidity levels steady, and avoiding outside activities during low humidity times may help limit the negative impacts of low humidity on air quality.