Reduction in humidity as a method of controlling mites and mite allergens: the use of mechanical ventilation in British domestic dwellings


Professor C. A. C. Pickering, North West Lung Centre, Wythenshawe Hospital, Southmoor Road, Manchester M23 9LT, UK.


Background Low humidity is an important limiting factor for mite population growth. Reducing humidity can therefore be used as a method to control mites within the home.

Objective Ihis study investigated the effect of mechanical ventilation heat recovery (MVHR) units on house dust mites and mite allergen Der p I in typical homes in the North-West of England.

Methods Mite counts and Der p 1 levels were measured at 3-monthly intervals over a period of 1 year in 18 houses (nine with MVHR units and nine architecturally matched control houses). Paired dust samples were collected using a vacuum cleaner with an air-flow rate 451/sec, adapted to collect the sample onto a preweighed filter paper. A 1 m2 area of bedroom carpet, living room carpet and mattress was sampled for 2min. Indoor temperature and relative humidity (RH) levels were recorded for a period of 1 week before and after the winter period (November and February: 3 and 6 months data sets). The environmental questionnaire was completed at the beginning and at the end of the study.

Results No difference in either Der p 1 concentrations or mite counts in any of the sampling sites at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months as compared with the baseline values was found, both within and between the groups (P > 0.1). The measured levels of RH performed in autumn and winter were found to be lower in the MVHR houses compared to the architectural controls. The indoor temperature during each period did not differ between the groups. Questionnaire data showed that the severity of condensation improved in the MVHR homes, whilst during the winter period, the severity of condensation had increased in the architectural control group.

Conclusions The MVHR unit does not reduce indoor humidity to levels capable of retarding mite population growth and decreasing mile allergens in the type of houses predominantly found in the mild and humid climate of the North-West of England.