Shops run dry of dehumidifiers in muggy weather

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 March, 2010, 12:00am

Shops in the city are running out of dehumidifiers as demand has risen from people trying to get rid of the mould since the early onset of high humidity levels.

Last month was unusually humid, with the relative humidity level at 88 per cent, the highest since 1959 and 10 per cent above normal for this period of the year.

The sky was also gloomier than usual: there was sunshine for just 31.8 hours, only a third of the usual figure.

And the air is getting wetter, with relative humidity hitting 94 per cent on Monday. It will be equally wet during the week, he said.

Kammy Tsang, who promotes a brand of dehumidifiers at a Tsuen Wan department store, said the shop she works at had been out of stock since Friday. The store offers around seven models that cost between HK$1,000 and HK$4,000.

'There are usually five or six dehumidifiers of each model in stock. We order more from suppliers when we run out,' she said. 'But now, even the suppliers are out of stock.' Supplies were adequate this time last year because it was not as humid.

She said she had been constantly cleaning the mould off the walls in her home trying to prevent permanent black stains.

A Fortress spokeswoman said dehumidifiers were selling well. Usually, the market booms in March, but it came earlier this year.

A sales assistant at Broadway in Mongkok said: 'We originally had over 10 models, but they are all out of stock except one.' The shop has just two dehumidifiers left and some display models had been sold.

One manufacturer said more stock would arrive this month, but others did not specify when.

Dr Edmond Cheng Kam-wah, the president of the Association of Property Management Companies, said staff should wipe walls with disinfectant solution more frequently instead of placing dehumidifiers in hallways.

Dr Betty Kwan Ka-mei, a family physician, said: 'With humidity at 95 per cent, we are almost living in water and a lot of things will be growing, including mould. It grows on everything.'

The number of patients she has treated for a range of allergies including symptoms in the nose and eyes, asthma, athlete's foot and thrush has doubled in the past week.

The swing in temperature of up to 10 degrees within a few days is also a stress factor for fungal infection, especially for diabetics who have a suppressed immunity.

Kwan said using a hot iron without the steam function on clothing can kill a fungus. She also said a mask should be worn when cleaning off mould to prevent breathing in spores that may trigger allergies.

A Department of Health spokesman said serious fungal infections and allergic responses in respiratory system in healthy people were rare.