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Asthma Epidemic in the US and UK: Indoor Air Pollution

January 16, 2018

A recent article published in the Daily Mail reveals the astonishing findings of British researchers detailing how poor indoor air quality is now more harmful to people than pollution outdoors. The study concluded that the damaging impact of central heating, gas cookers, cleaning product chemicals, and mold on our lungs is causing an asthma epidemic in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Although outdoor air pollution is still a significant threat, responsible for 200,000 early deaths in the US and 40,000 in the UK, experts warn that people spend 90% of their time indoors and homes are more airtight nowadays in an effort to increase energy efficiency. Without fresh air circulating throughout homes, the quality of the air suffers.

Professor Tim Sharpe, a researcher with the Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit concludes ‘Modern homes are increasingly airtight and can also contain a great number of pollutants and chemicals, many of which can have serious health effects,’ he said.

There are numerous contributing factors damaging indoor air quality: central heating, gas cookers, pets, open fires, chemicals found in household cleaners and the flame retardants used in furnishings are just a few. Condensation buildup is also to blame, with studies suggesting up to 46 percent of homes have signs of dampness and mold.

Additionally, warmth, moisture, and inadequate ventilation make it easier for bacteria and viruses to survive and spread. Moisture is a major concern because it encourages mold growth as well as house-dust mites — which can trigger asthma attacks and breathing difficulties associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

The British Royal College of Physicians issued a stern warning on indoor air quality last year: ‘We must strengthen our understanding of the relationship between indoor air pollution and health, including the key risk factors and effects of poor air quality in our homes, schools and workplaces.’

Professor Louis-Jean Couderc, a respiratory specialist based at the Foch Hospital in Paris, agrees, adding: ‘Infectious agents play a key role in asthma, in combination with environmental factors and allergies. These three mechanisms exacerbate one another. Getting rid of airborne allergens and improving indoor air quality are therefore the first stages in treating respiratory allergies.’

The French journal, General Medicine, came to the same conclusion, reporting: ‘Respiratory viruses are aggravating factors for asthma and play a role in triggering exacerbations. Getting rid of airborne allergens and improving indoor air quality are therefore the first stages in treating respiratory allergies.’

Experts agree that poor indoor air quality is responsible for the sharp increase in asthma and other lung related illnesses in the US and UK. To combat these health dangers, people must address indoor air quality problems and seek out ways to actively promote healthier indoor air.