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Early exposure increases risk of asthma into adolescence

Early exposure increases risk of asthma into adolescence

Early exposure to damp or mould at home is putting children at increased risk of developing asthma and other respiratory symptoms well into adolescence, according to new research released as part of the Healthy Lungs for Life campaign.

Two new studies were presented at the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress in London from 3-7 September, which brings together the brightest minds in lung health to discuss possible breakthroughs.

The first study looks at nearly 15,000 people from across Europe and suggests that early exposure to damp or mould in the home – from birth to one year – increases your risk of developing asthma by 14% up until adolescence. The danger of continued exposure at home was even worse and increased the risk of developing asthma by 24%.

The second study, which looks at over 50,000 people in Norway shows that exposure to damp or mould at home was also associated with an increased risk of developing respiratory symptoms and asthma in adults – with preliminary results showing a 50% increased risk of reporting respiratory symptoms if exposed.

Ten per cent of participants also reported exposure to damp or mould at work, particularly those working in trades like carpentry and joinery, and preliminary results show an even stronger correlation between this exposure and the risk of asthma or other respiratory symptoms.

The Healthy Lungs for Life campaign is encouraging anyone who is experiencing any lung symptoms at home or in the workplace, to talk to their GP and get their lungs tested.

Dr Joachim Heinrich, Senior Consultant at University Hospital, Ludwigs Maximilians University, and author of the first study, said: “Out of numerous suggested risk factors for asthma onset, the risk for living in a damp home is one of the most consistent findings, alongside exposure to second hand smoke”.

Regine Abrahamsen, Department of Occupational & Environmental Medicine at Telemark Hospital, who authored the second study, said: “These studies show how important it is to make people aware of the associations between dampness and/or mould and asthma and respiratory symptoms. Making people more aware of the risks will hopefully mean more action is taken to prevent them living in these conditions”.

Commenting on the studies, Professor Jørgen Vestbo, President of ERS and Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Manchester, said:

“People’s homes can put their health at risk. No one, least of all young children, should have to live in a damp environment. It’s important everyone is aware of the risks so that they can either take steps to tackle”.