New research reveals that energy efficient homes could increase asthma risks. The research, led by a team at the University of Exeter Medical School, shows that a failure by residents to heat and ventilate retrofitted properties could lead to more people developing asthma.

The researchers assessed data from the residents of 700 properties in Cornwall and worked with leading UK social housing provider. The results of the study indicate that people living in more energy efficient homes had a greater risk of asthma.

The results of the study also revealed that the presence of mold doubled the risk of developing this condition. The University of Exeter news release notes that this is the first time scientists have been able to combine detailed asset management data with information about occupant behavior and health, to assess the factors likely to contribute to asthma.

Researcher Richard Sharpe states, “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.” Sharpe adds, “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 mold, factors that we know can contribute to asthma.”

The University of Exeter news release indicates that the presence of mold was unable to fully explain the findings of the study with poorly ventilated homes also likely to increase people’s exposure to other biological, chemical, and physical contaminants. The study pointed to other possible factors that can affect health in homes with high humidity, such as house dust mites and bacteria. In addition, occupant behaviors, such as relying on less effective heating systems, can impact indoor humidity at a property.

Mark England, head of technical services at Coastline Housing, says, “This research has given us an invaluable insight into how the behavior 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.”

Source: University of Exeter