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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 01:24 GMT 02:24 UK
Damp homes 'increase asthma risk'
Breath test
Students living in damp homes run greater asthma risks
Traditional student digs with mouldy and damp walls could double the risk of asthma, say researchers.

A study of over 10,000 Finnish students found that living in damp homes not only increased the risk of asthma, but left residents with a greater chance of repeated colds and skin allergies.

People living in damp houses were found to need more antibiotics than others and were more likely to suffer from pneumonia, bronchitis or tonsillitis.

The study published in the journal Thorax, showed that one in seven of the students quizzed had homes with mould, damp stains or water damage.

A body of medical evidence is growing on the insidious health effects of home dampness on young people

Dr John Harvey, British Thoracic Society

Just 2.8% of students who lived in adequate housing said they suffered from asthma - double this number had asthma in the damper homes.

One in seven of the undergraduates studied said they had suffered four or more colds during the last year and 16% said they had a constant runny nose.

Health risks

The study also found that just under 40% of the students who lived in damp homes had suffered pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis or tonsillitis over the last year.

Report author Maritta Kilpelainen of Turku University, said: "The risk of asthma was about twice as high when exposed to home dampness.

"Research on housing characteristics which determine the growth of moulds is needed to prevent indoor exposure to dampness."

A spokeswoman for the National Asthma Campaign said people living in damp homes should try and protect themselves from the conditions which trigger asthma.

"Moulds release tiny spores into the air that can trigger asthma symptoms.

Inhalers can help to reduce asthma attacks

"Mould spores can be found in damp places in the home like kitchens and bathrooms.

"Keep kitchen and bathroom doors closed to prevent dampness spreading to other parts of the house and keep rooms well aired and try to avoid condensation."


Dr John Harvey, of the British Thoracic Society (BTS), said damp conditions had long been linked to poor health and he called on the government to make changes to improve housing for the poorer sections of society.

"A body of medical evidence is growing on the insidious health effects of home dampness on young people.

"We encourage the Department of Health and the government's Social Exclusion Unit to take onboard this research in looking at how to improve the lung health of the nation."

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