Housing Conditions and Children's Respiratory Health
Wells, John A.
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Understanding how respiratory health risks are associated with poor housing is essential to designing effective strategies to improve children’s quality of life. The objective of this thesis is to determine the relationship between the respiratory health of children and the condition of the homes in which they reside – using both building science and health data. The thesis therefore, examines the association between self-reported mould in the home, housing conditions, and the respiratory health of children. The study contributes to both the medical and engineering research community by enabling researches, designers, and Building Code officials to focus on cost-effective target areas for improving indoor air quality and thus, the respiratory health of children. A survey designed to assess the relationship between respiratory health and housing conditions was completed by 3,424 parents of grades 3 and 4 children in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Air samples were then taken in the homes of a subset of 715 houses– one in the child’s bedroom and another in the basement – with an exterior neighborhood air sample as a control measure. Engineering audits on 715 homes were then conducted – including measurements of relative humidity, temperature, and moisture content of walls. Major findings include the following: (1) Self-reported visible mould in the home is clearly associated with the presence of air-borne mould. (2) There are fewer healthy children when mould is present in the home. (3) Cladosporium levels (CFU/m3) in the house were associated with children’s asthma in combination with persistent colds. (4) Measures taken by homeowners to increase the air-tightness of their homes, such as new windows increased the likelihood of having higher air-borne moisture and mould levels. (5) The “hygiene hypothesis” was supported, which postulates that denying children access to certain types and levels of biological contamination at a young immune-developmental age, increases their susceptibility to allergic responses at a later age.