Indoor air quality in nursing homes affecting lungs of residents, study claims
Poor indoor air quality in European nursing homes caused by a number of domestic pollutants is having a “seriousâ€? impact on elderly residents’ lungs, according to the findings of a new study.
Published yesterday (March 12) in the European Respiratory Journal, the study claims to be the first to detail the negative effects of poor air quality in nursing homes across seven European countries, collecting data on five pollutants.
Researchers from the EU-funded GERIE research project looked at particulate matter PM10 and PM2.5, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3) from a range of sources, including heaters building materials, furniture, cleaning products, disinfectants and cooling systems.
The study – ‘Indoor air quality, ventilation and respiratory health in elderly from EU Nursing Homes’ – assessed levels of the pollutants in 50 different nursing homes in Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Poland and Sweden.
A total of 600 residents aged over 65 years (the average age being 82 years old) were used in the study, with each participant undergoing a number of clinical tests, including lung function testing and a health questionnaire.
The results showed that exposure to high levels of PM10 and NO2 was “significantlyâ€? associated with breathlessness and coughing. Additionally, high levels of PM0.1 were associated with wheezing and high concentrations of formaldehyde were linked with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
According to the researchers, the associations were even seen with moderate concentrations of indoor air pollutants that did not exceed existing international guidelines and were also enhanced in homes with poor ventilation and in residents over the age of 80.
Authors of the study have called for further investigations to assess more nursing homes in different countries, and also to conduct intervention studies to assess which prevention methods are most successful.
Lead author of the study, Dr Isabella Annesi-Maesano, commented: “Our findings have shown an independent effect of several indoor air pollutants on the lung health of the elderly living in nursing homes. This is a worrying problem since the body’s ability to cope with harmful air pollutants decreases as we age. Nursing homes should do more to prevent indoor air pollution by limiting its sources and by improving ventilation in their buildings. The respiratory health of residents should also be checked on a regular basis.â€?
Dan Smyth, chair of the European Lung Foundation, said: “The majority of lung diseases are preventable therefore we must focus on strategies that target the risk factors linked to these diseases. These findings add to a body of evidence confirming that indoor air pollution is one of these risk factors. We must raise awareness of this, through campaigns such as Healthy Lungs for Life, to ensure that the public, patients, healthcare professionals and policymakers understand the importance of breathing clean air to help prevent disease.”