This European Social Fund supported PhD investigated the links between energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and health.
As an award-winning study, it has been recognised for its novel and multidisciplinary approaches.
Working closely with social housing provider, Coastline Housing, it involved the surveying of over 700 properties and their residents, as well as a rigorous systematic review.
Our review assessed the findings from 17 studies in eight different countries, and found that several types of mould, including Aspergillus and Penicillium, can lead to breathing problems in asthma sufferers, as well as increasing the likelihood of developing the condition. It also highlighted other factors that can contribute to the risk of asthma, including house dust mites, pets and chemicals.
This paper was published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and is available here
The survey with Coastline Housing customers took place during 2012 and 2013. Postal questionnaires were sent out to around 4,000 properties, where we carried out a survey of their home to identify problems with damp and mould growth. Occupants from 706 homes responded to our survey and provided behavioural and health data on a range of diseases, which was subsequently merged with asset management records on all properties.
This part of the study marked the first time that detailed asset management data has been combined with information about occupant behaviour and health. Our results showed that people living in more energy efficient homes had a greater risk of asthma, and while the presence of mould doubled this risk, fungal exposure could not fully explain this finding.
These findings provided an invaluable insight into how the behaviour of people living in fuel efficient homes can affect health.
To explore this further we examined the role of fuel poverty in this population. Fuel poverty behaviours such as not heating the whole property and not ventilating the home increased the risk of visible mould growth and the presence of a mouldy/musty odour.
This association remained despite energy efficiency improvements, use of extractor fans and occupant risk perception of the potential health risks resulting from living in cold, damp and mouldy homes.
This study was also published in the journal Environment International and is available here
To further explore the role of indoor mould contamination and health in another population, we investigated publicly available data from the US NHANES survey, which includes a representative sample of 10,000 children and adult participants.
In this study we also found that a mouldy/musty odour represented a health risk to children and adults suffering from asthma, however, allergic status and exposure to multiple biological contaminants may play a different role in children and adults.