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Humid houses pose health hazards

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Babs Verblackt, Citizen News Service (CNS)

(CNS): Indoor air quality concerns more than just the fumes and smoke in the house. Dampness and mould pose health risks too, especially for people living with asthma. Researchers warn that people's living habits and the new energy efficient technology used to revamp old houses might actually give indoor damp and mould more room to rise. The need for adequate heating, ventilation and home maintenance remains crucial for ones' lung health.

The presence of several types of mould can lead to breathing problems in people living with asthma, as well as increase the likelihood of developing the condition, British researchers reaffirmed recently in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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"Most people may not be aware that moulds are abundant in our outdoor and indoor environments. Our exposure to different amounts and types of mould can be affected by weather conditions, the amount of spores in the air, and whether we have damp in our homes. If you have a house or flat that suffers from dampness, you are more likely to have more mould," Richard Sharpe, researcher at the University of Exeter Medical School's European Centre for Environment and Human Health, told Citizen News Service.

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Specific moulds

"With 1 in 3 persons suffering from allergies in industrialised countries, there has been an increasing focus on indoor air quality," Sharpe continues. "A robust body of evidence now suggests that rates of allergic and respiratory diseases are linked to poor indoor housing conditions. We looked at specific types of mould to examine which types were most likely to cause breathing problems and worsen asthma symptoms."

The researchers critically reviewed the findings from various studies done in the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Taiwan, Columbia, Australia, Canada and China. The team identified links between a number of different types of fungi, (including Aspergillus and the antibiotic-producing Penicillium) and breathing problems in those with asthma. The study highlights the need for homes to have adequate heating, ventilation and home maintenance -- all factors that will help to reduce the presence of mould and its effects on asthma symptoms.

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Harmful effects

A typical home houses around 10 varieties of mould. "We have found the strongest evidence yet of their potentially harmful effects, with higher levels of some of these moulds presenting a breathing hazard to people living with asthma, worsening their symptoms significantly," Sharpe says. "It also looks that mould may help to trigger the development of asthma -- although research in this area is still in its infancy."

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