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April 2018

Damp housing, gas stoves, and the burden of childhood asthma in Australia

Luke D Knibbs, Solomon Woldeyohannes, Guy B Marks and Christine T Cowie

What did the study find?

The study aimed find out how much childhood asthma in Australia is linked to two common indoor exposures in homes: dampness and the use of gas stoves for cooking. It found that nearly 8% of asthma in children is attributable to household dampness (except that in the bathroom), and surprisingly that a larger proportion (about 12%) was attributable to exposure to gas stoves used for cooking. It also found that if households used high efficiency range hoods when cooking with gas, this last figure would dramatically drop from 12% to 3%. Cooking with gas releases chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde which can cause inflammation in the airways and exacerbate asthma. 


Why does it matter?

Most parents of children with asthma minimise their exposure to house mites, pollen and animal hair through vacuuming and replacing carpets with hard flooring. But these new findings suggest that other household changes could also be important because exposures to damp and kitchen gas stoves are common. The study found that dampness existed in 26% of Australian homes and that 38% of homes used natural gas for stovetop cooking. Ways to reduce exposure could include better ventilating houses with fresh air (using open windows when conditions allow), using room dehumidifiers, and limiting use of clothes dryers indoors. For gas cooking, using range hoods can be effective but effectiveness can vary a lot – check if the range hood is vented outdoors (usually better) or simply recirculates the air (usually worse). Even in homes without a range hood, simply opening windows during and after cooking can help reduce exposure. The study calls for a coordinated, national strategy to increase awareness and interventions for these indoor environmental exposures. 

CAR members involved in this study

  • Luke Knibbs

  • Guy Marks

  • Christine Cowie

Media and other coverage of this study 

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