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Energy-efficient homes linked to asthma

The drive for energy-efficient homes could increase the risk of asthma, according to research.

A team at the University of Exeter Medical School found that a failure by residents to heat and ventilate retrofitted properties correctly could lead to more people developing the condition.

Working with social housing provider Coastline Housing, team assessed data from the residents of 700 properties in Cornwall.

It found that people living in more energy-efficient homes had a greater risk of developing asthma, and that the presence of mould doubled this risk.

The study, published in Environment International, builds on previous work showing that dampness and mould can increase the risk of allergic diseases.

It is the first time scientists have been able to combine asset management data with information about occupant behaviour and health to assess the factors likely to contribute to asthma.

Researcher Richard Sharpe said: “We’ve found that adults living in energy-efficient social housing may have an increased risk of asthma. Modern efficiency measures are vital to help curb energy use, and typically prevent heat loss through improved insulation and crack sealing. Yet some people, particularly those living in fuel poverty, are unlikely to heat a building enough – or ventilate it sufficiently – to prevent the presence of damp and mould, factors that we know can contribute to asthma.”

Coastline Housing head of technical services Mark England said: “Energy-efficiency measures are vital to help keep costs low and reduce the environmental impact of heating our homes. This research has given us an invaluable insight into how the behaviour of people living in fuel-efficient homes can affect health. As a result, we’re working to provide better information to customers on how to manage their indoor environment, including potential training of volunteer sustainability champions.”

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