Energy-efficient housing increases the risk of asthma

Things that are good for the environment often turn out to be good for our health as well, but that’s not always the case. In fact, a new study’s found that when it comes to energy-efficient housing, people are actually more at risk of developing asthma.

A research team from the University of Exeter Medical School examined the data of over 700 Cornwall residents and discovered that people living in energy efficient homes were at greater risk of asthma and other breathing difficulties.

That’s because energy-efficient housing needs to be properly heated and ventilated in order to work property. Given the price of fuel and the economy/job market/difficulty accessing benefits, not everyone can afford to do this. That can lead to damp and mould, which doubles the asthma risk.

That’s worrying given that the government’s just released £30 million of funding so people can make their homes more energy efficient, with cash available (for those quick enough to claim it) towards improvements like insulation, double glazing, and fan-assisted storage heaters. It’s also important from a public health perspective, given that the UK has a high incidence of asthma sufferers, with 5.4 million people of all ages currently being treated for the condition – around one in 12.

The property company behind the houses studied, Coastline Housing, say they’re grateful for the information on how energy efficient measures can affect health. They’re now considering how best to pass the message on to residents, and are even considering ‘volunteer sustainability champions’. Which is all well and good, but if someone can’t afford to heat their home, some well-meaning nagging isn’t going to help much. Perhaps those volunteers should bring round a wad of cash, or failing that, an inhaler or two, instead.

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Diane Shipley