2016 Volume 41 Issue 6 Pages 711-717
Exposure to humidifier disinfectants was identified in 2011 as the potential cause of an outbreak of lung disease in Korea. It is estimated that over 8 million people have been exposed to humidifier disinfectants—chemicals added to the water used in humidifiers to prevent the growth of microorganisms—since their commercial introduction. The primary component of humidifier disinfectant products involved was polyhexamethylene guanidine phosphate (PHMG-P), a guanidine-based antimicrobial agent. Lesions observed in the lungs of patients were similar to those observed in laboratory animals exposed to PHMG-P. In this review, we outline the physicochemical and toxicological properties of PHMG-P, and introduce a putative mechanism for its lung toxicity based in large part on research findings to date.