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Environ Health Toxicol. 2016 Dec 4;31:e2016025. doi: 10.5620/eht.e2016025. eCollection 2016.

Humidifier disinfectant disaster: what is known and what needs to be clarified.

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Graduate School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.



After the initial investigations by the Korea Centers for Disease Control in 2011, over 1000 suspicious cases of humidifier disinfectant (HD) victims were subsequently reported by 2015, and numbers are still increasing dramatically in 2016 in the midst of the prosecutors' office investigation. This study attempts to summarize the current understandings of the related health effects of HD based upon a systemic review of published epidemiologic studies and toxicology investigations.


Published studies of HDs were searched through PubMed and TOXLINE under the search words 'humidifier disinfectant,' and related reports were identified from the references and published report list of regulatory agencies including the Korean National Institute of Environmental Research, US Environmental Protection Agency, and EU European Chemicals Agency.


Case reports and epidemiologic studies have reported the clinical features of severe forms of HD lung damage, together with epidemiologic findings of seasonal occurrence and demographic variations, including the heightened susceptibility of young children. Toxicological studies have reported inhalation toxicities together with positive findings of in vitro genotoxicity studies.


This study examined unsolved issues based on cases of upper respiratory diseases and diseases of other organs, including cancers, among suspected victims of HDs. These issues should be clarified in future research for the management and prevention of health effects from HDs and chemicals of other related household products.


Epidemiology; Humidifier disinfectant; Magnitude of victims; Reviews; Toxicology

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