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Gas stoves and damp houses major contributors to childhood asthma

By Bianca Nogrady
A study has estimated that damp houses and gas stove emissions contribute significantly to the burden of childhood asthma in Australia.

Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, researchers reported the results of a modelling study that suggested that about 7.9% of childhood asthma burden could be attributed to damp housing and 12.3% attributed to exposure to gas stove emissions, which included nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde.

However, the study also estimated that if homes with gas stoves were fitted with high-efficiency exhaust range-hoods, their contribution to childhood asthma burden would reduce to 3.4%.

The modelling used data on the proportion of the population exposed to damp housing or gas stoves; previous study results reporting associations between these exposures and asthma symptoms; and the total asthma burden in Australian children in 2011.

Previous data suggested that 26.1% of Australian homes had dampness problems, and an average of 38.2% of Australian households used gas for cooking.

Author Dr Christine Cowie, Senior Research Fellow at UNSW’s South West Sydney Clinical School, said that, given the high prevalence of gas stove use as well as damp housing in Australia, it was not surprising that they estimated such a significant contribution to childhood asthma burden.

‘We know that these two exposures can exacerbate asthma but in terms of causation, there’s still more research to do,’ said Dr Cowie, also from the Centre for Air Pollution, Energy and Health Research at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Sydney.

She told Medicine Today the latest study results indicated that addressing just these two contributors alone might reduce up to 20% of the burden of childhood asthma.

Dr Cowie recommended that people using gas stoves also use a high-efficiency exhaust hood to remove the pollutants to outside the house, and ensure that their house was adequately ventilated to reduce dampness.
Med J Aust 2018; 208: 299-302.