Indoor Air Pollution Caused by Cookstoves poses Health Risks

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are 4 million premature deaths (predominantly caused by respiratory and cardiovascular diseases) each year attributed to household air pollution created by using wood, coal and other solid fuels for cooking and heating homes.

A novel multi-country trial is being carried out by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with partial support through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle the global health problem. The multimillion-dollar study will determine if using widely available, clean, alternative cooking fuel significantly reduces deaths and illnesses. The 5-year study is part of a broader international effort to research chronic lung diseases which are coordinated by the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD).

The NIH Director Francis S. Collins commented on the matter:

“Indoor air pollution caused by cookstoves is one of the top health risks in developing countries, causing deaths from low birth weight among babies, pneumonia in young children, and heart and lung problems in adults. By working with our global partners on alternative fuel solutions, we have an opportunity to reduce that risk significantly for millions of people.”

According to the WHO, there are approximately 3 billion people worldwide who are reliant on using solid fuels for both cooking and heating. The indoor pollution generated can cause a range of diseases such as pneumonia, heart disease, cancer and chronic lung disease.

The study which is led by Emory University in Atlanta plans to recruit 800 pregnant women at a number of trial sites and will randomly assign half to receive liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) stoves and a supply of gas. The trial will run until the child is 2 years old, a number of medical measurements will be then taken i.e. did the mother suffer from hypertension during pregnancy, the incidence of pneumonia and growth and development of the infants. Addition to this, several hundred older women will be assigned to each site and monitored to assess cardiopulmonary, metabolic and cancer outcomes. Biomarker analysis of blood and urine samples will also be carried out.

This cutting-edge study will hopefully provide an essential insight into the effects of air pollution produced by cookstoves reliant on LPG on health. The trial will also provide scientific evidence of potential alternatives to using solid fuels which may subsequently reduce the number of health issues related to indoor air pollution.

Improved Air Quality Correlated with Controlling Children’s Asthma

Asthma currently affects 1.1 million children in the UK, that’s 1 in 11 children receiving treatment.

Asthma is characterized by coughing, breathing difficulties, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing. It has been previously reported that children with asthma should not be exposed to indoor air that’s contaminated with allergens and pollutants to reduce the risk of asthma attacks. A clinical study carried out by the American Academy of Paediatrics suggests that breathing clean air may be as effective as medications to control the disease. The report also highlights that children are more sensitive to both pollutants and allergens due to a number of biological factors, such as their lungs, brains and immune systems are still at developmental stages and their respiratory tracts are more permeable. Asthma triggers such as dust mites, mould, furry pets, sources of indoor air pollution (e.g. tobacco smoke, gas from cookers and heaters and open fires) and household chemicals such as air fresheners should all be controlled to help reduce asthma attacks and the need for medication.

For further information regarding how to cut down allergens and pollutants in your home, visit: http://www.webmd.boots.com/asthma/news/20161101/air-quality-helps-kids-asthma

 

If we are what we eat, what about what we breathe?

It’s time to eat, drink and breathe healthily

We’re frequently bombarded with advice on what we should and shouldn’t eat and how much we should or shouldn’t drink, but no-one ever tells us what we should or shouldn’t breathe – despite the fact that breathing polluted indoor air has been linked to a range of serious health conditions.
We breathe in far more than we eat and drink. On an average day, working-age people eat and drink a combined total of 2.7 litres, yet breathe a staggering 13,000 litres of air.

NHS experts offer wide-ranging advice on how to eat healthily; from 5 fruit and vegetables a day, guideline daily amounts on food products, to advice on red meat intake. The Government also recommend we drink 6-8 glasses of water a day and limit our daily alcohol intake but no advice is issued on what the air we are breathing in could be doing to our bodies, or what we can do about it.

This is despite the fact that we spend up to 90% of our time indoors and breathing polluted indoor air has been linked to allergies, asthma, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, airborne respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease.

Research shows that the best way to tackle indoor air pollution is to make sure that you have effective ventilation. This is because effective ventilation removes indoor air pollutants from the home, stopping them from accumulating and keeping indoor air quality at a healthy level.

Professor Peter Howarth, Consultant Physician at the University of Southampton, said:

“When individuals and families are exposed to a potent mix of airborne pollutants within the home, it is well documented that a range of health conditions occur more frequently. I have had many patients come to me with health problems due to indoor pollutants and this is normally down to poor ventilation and high levels of moisture in the air”.

Expert warns of an asthma epidemic – caused by our own homes

How UK homes are predicted to damage health over the next 35 years

A new report highlights that not enough is being done to consider the impact of indoor air pollution on health, and predicts that without intervention the UK could see an 80% increase in asthma sufferers over the next 35 years.

‘The Future of Indoor Air Quality in UK Homes and its Impact on Health’ –a report by indoor air quality specialist Professor Hazim Awbi – also warns that levels of pollutants in the home, known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), could rise to 60% above World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended limits for a 24 hour exposure period.

The UK is committed to an 80% carbon reduction by 2050 and to meet this target homes must become more energy efficient and therefore more airtight. However, building regulations have not properly considered the adverse impact of improved air-tightness and increased energy efficiency on indoor air quality (IAQ) and the health of occupants.

Increasing airtightness means that air exchange – the quantity of air moving into and out of the home- is reduced allowing pollutants to accumulate, and the quality of air to worsen. Current building regulations do not enforce an adequate air exchange rate, which is predicted to leave UK homes at risk of breaching acceptable levels of pollutants outlined by WHO. As energy efficiency measures increase, the situation is expected to significantly deteriorate.

The association between poor indoor air quality and health is well documented, with links to a range of health problems including; asthma and allergy symptoms, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, airborne respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease. There are concerns that those spending most time at home, including young mothers, children and the elderly, are most at risk.

Liz McInnes, MP for Heywood and Middleton, former NHS worker, and Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government said:

“The issue of poor indoor air quality on health and particularly its impact on sufferers of asthma is sometimes overlooked by policymakers and health professionals. GPs play a crucial role in providing information and guidance to patients, but increasingly important is the role of local councils who are now responsible for public health. The conclusions of Professor Awbi’s report need to be fully considered, and government, health professionals, local councils and social housing associations need to work together on finding solutions.”

Professor Awbi highlights that to protect human health, and avoid a potential asthma epidemic, there should be changes in regulation and legislation to ensure new and existing homes are able to deliver healthy indoor air. Simply opening windows is not enough as it doesn’t allow the necessary level of air exchange, and the report concludes that effective and properly installed mechanical ventilation systems are key to addressing the problem.

Professor Awbi comments:

‘‘ To avoid a serious and significant increase in asthma cases – which could be up to 80% – and other health conditions related to poor indoor air quality, homes must be adequately ventilated. In addition to the need for mechanical ventilation systems, I would also advise that a minimum air exchange rate that new homes must meet is enforced and there is tighter regulation to ensure systems are adequately installed, operated and maintained.’’

Jill Sanders of Action Against Allergy, a national charity representing those suffering from allergic disease, added:

“Indoor air quality seems to have been entirely overlooked until now, so it is encouraging to see that at last it is being recognised not only as a problem but indeed as a worsening problem. We hope this will start a process which will lead to awareness among government and industry about the quality of indoor air. We must expect energy efficiency regulation and monitoring to cover the air people breathe indoors, to ensure it is not detrimental to their health and wellbeing.”