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BSRIA responds to worrying Asthma levels among young people reportFebruary 2019

Blanca Beato-Arribas Senior Research Engineer

BSRIA has responded to a report published last week, which states that young people in the UK are more likely to die from asthma than those in “other wealthy countries”. The study says that death rates for asthma in 10 to 24 year olds was highest in the UK among all 14 European nations included in an analysis of 19 high-income countries.

The study, from the Nuffield Trust think tank and the Association for Young People's Health, analysed 17 measures of health and wellbeing in 19 countries: UK, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden and Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and United States.

The UK was amongst the four worst countries where young people are likely to suffer from years lost to ill-health, only ahead of Australia, United States, and New Zealand.

Blanca Beato-Arribas, Microclimate Team Leader, BSRIA, said:

“BSRIA is deeply concerned about the findings of this report. It is certainly distressing that young people are more likely to die from asthma in the UK than in other European countries.

If we don't take action now, the next generation will move into adulthood sicker than the one before it. Keeping healthcare costs down with the NHS is a key factor too.

BSRIA has conducted extensive research into the indoor environmental quality testing of schools which can have a detrimental impact on children’s health and wellbeing, as well as on their learning performance. Ensuring a school has the best environment, by improving air quality, has a direct impact on children’s attention levels and exam performance.

The Building Bulletin 101, first published in 2006, was re-issued by the Department of Education in 2016, as a draft for public consultation to improve ventilation, thermal comfort and indoor air quality.

Regarding indoor air quality, BB101 refers to air quality throughout the life of the building, including design, construction, occupation and maintenance.

The effects of poor air quality are widely known. The publication in 2016 of the Royal College of Physicians report Every Breath We Take highlighted the link between air pollution and deaths. Indoor air can at times have more contaminants than the air outside, and people spend the majority of their time indoors.

Children are particularly vulnerable to air quality; they have a higher metabolic rate and respiration rate than adults and are more susceptible to asthma, NOx and particle effects.”

Ventilation Rates

Considering air quality in mind from the design stage can avoid problems in the future: from ventilation rates, to the selection of low contaminant emission materials, to construction procedures and processes.

Maintenance plays an important part in the air quality of a building. Filter changing, cleaning procedures and avoiding water stagnation can prevent contaminants being distributed by the ventilation system: for example: dust, which can cause eye irritation, allergens, NOx and particles, which can cause respiratory diseases or in extreme cases death.

High levels of relative humidity and damp can lead to the growth of bacteria, mould and fungi, which are associated with asthma and other respiratory infections. Adequate maintenance of ventilation systems can avoid mould and fungi to grow in the ventilation system and spread around the school.

Supplying the correct ventilation rate can dilute the concentration of contaminants in the building, but also improve the children’s concentration. Inadequate ventilation can lead to a high concentration of CO2 (i.e at levels of 2,000-2,500 ppm subject to occupants’ sensibility), which can make the environment feel stuffy and the occupants drowsy.

Ventilation solutions for schools should be tested to verify they provide the right environment in terms of thermal comfort, with adequate air distribution that does not cause draughts, but sufficient to dilute contaminant concentration.

Ventilation testing equipment

Air capture hood sets available for sale and hire from BSRIA Instrument Solutions