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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 01:33 GMT
Poor housing 'causing child illness'
Poor housing
Poor housing is linked to a number of conditions
Children in run-down housing are suffering from serious and prolonged illnesses exacerbated by the appalling conditions in which they live, a report says.

More than 750,000 children in England are living in poor housing, the charity Shelter says.

Households in poor housing
London 19%
West Midlands 15%
Yorkshire and the Humber 14%
North West 13%
East of England 13%
East Midlands 13%
It has found that many are suffering in damp, mouldy and overcrowded homes which are linked to health problems ranging from gastroenteritis and skin disorders to chronic asthma.

An analysis of calls to the charity's helpline found that more people rang with health problems than any other problem - apart from homelessness itself and threatened eviction.

In total, more than 6,000 homeless and badly-housed people phoned the Shelterline service during its first three years.

Many were not getting the help with their housing which could prevent them from falling sick, the report said.

It estimated that 100,000 children became homeless every year, of whom many were then forced into temporary accommodation which could be even worse.

Families of four or more could be crammed into one room and standards were often dangerously low.

Nightmare

Shelter director Chris Holmes said: "Most people's home provides them with somewhere warm, comfortable and safe to live.

"But for others it can be a nightmare from the moment they wake up to the day's end.

"Damp run-down housing is causing misery for thousands of people."

Most calls about health problems
London 4,158
Kent 128
Greater Manchester 98
West Yorkshire 98
Research suggests that living every day in cold, damp conditions can cause a number of chronic illnesses.

Cold housing has been linked to breathing disorders like asthma, heart disease, strokes and hypothermia.

Damp allows the spread of infectious diseases and the growth of mould.

Mould can cause respiratory problems, allergic reactions and infections.

People with asthma are two to three times more likely than the general population to live in damp properties.

A spokeswoman for the National Asthma Campaign said: "It's distressing to see how many children could have their health affected by their homes.

"We know that there is a link between poor housing conditions and asthma and so it's important that problems such as damp, poor ventilation and inadequate heating are resolved as quickly as possible to avoid worsening symptoms and possible hospital admissions."

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The BBC's Richard Bilton
"It's a growing problem"
See also:

11 May 01 | Health
Poverty raises heart attack risk
09 Oct 01 | Health
Health gap widening
23 Feb 01 | Health
Northerners 'lead shorter lives'
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