Damp housing and gas stoves have been associated with about 20 per cent of childhood asthma burden in a study across the Tasman.

The study, published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, set out to determine the proportion of the national childhood asthma burden associated with exposure to dampness and gas stoves in Australian homes.

About 26 per cent of Australian homes are reported to have dampness problems – compared with nearly 50 per cent in New Zealand – and the study found that across the Tasman that damp housing contributed to about eight per cent of childhood asthma.

Gas stoves – which are used in about 38 per cent of Australian homes for stovetop cooking – were associated with about 12 per cent of asthma in children under 14, according to the joint University of Queensland and University of New South Wales study.

Luke Knibbs, a senior lecturer at the University of Queensland School of Public Health said using high-efficiency rangehoods could reduce the level of childhood asthma associated with gas stoves from about 12 per cent to just three per cent.

“The preferred option is to make sure the range-hood is vented outdoors, rather than a hood that recirculates the air.

“Even in homes without a range-hood, opening windows during and after cooking can help reduce exposure.”

He said most parents of children with asthma were aware to minimise exposure to dust mites, pollen and animal hair through vacuuming and replacing carpets with hard flooring, but other indoor exposures were not as well recognised.  Simple ways to reduce dampness include better ventilating houses with fresh air (using open windows when conditions allow), using room dehumidifiers, and limiting the drying of clothes indoors.

The study, published in The Medical Journal of Australia, was performed as part of an National Health and Medical Research Council centre for research excellence based at The University of New South Wales.  The study used peer-reviewed meta-analyses published in the last five years to quantify the association between exposures and asthma.  Plus Australian statistical data on the main energy source for stoves.

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