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Air quality in nursing homes ‘affects lung health of residents’

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The indoor air quality in nursing homes can have a serious effect on the lung health of older residents, according to the findings of a European study.

The authors of the study, which is published in the European Respiratory Journal, believe it is the first to detail the negative effects of poor air quality in nursing homes across several countries.

The researchers collected data on five indoor air pollutants – PM10, PM0.1, formaldehyde, NO2 and O3.

The pollutants come from a range of sources including heaters, building materials, furniture, cleaning products, disinfectants and cooling systems.

“The respiratory health of residents should also be checked on a regular basis”

Isabella Annesi-Maesano

They assessed levels of the pollutants in 50 different nursing homes in seven countries – Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Poland and Sweden. A total of 600 residents took part in the study.

The results showed that exposure to high levels of PM10 and NO2 was significantly associated with breathlessness and cough.

In addition, high levels of PM0.1 were associated with wheeze during the last year and high concentrations of formaldehyde were linked with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The associations were even seen with “moderate” concentrations of indoor air pollutants, the researchers said, adding that they were enhanced in homes with poor ventilation.

Dr Isabella Annesi-Maesano, lead author of the study, said: “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,” said Dr Annesi-Maesano.

“Nursing homes should do more to prevent indoor air pollution by limiting its sources and by improving ventilation in their buildings,” she said. “The respiratory health of residents should also be checked on a regular basis.”

Dan Smyth, chair of the European Lung Foundation, added that the findings added to a body of evidence “confirming” that indoor air pollution was a risk factor for respiratory disease.

 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I worked for Care UK who installed a massive air conditioning unit in a tiny medicine cupboard but the residents lounge temperatures regularly reached 80+, The 2 picture windows opened 2 inches but there was no where else for the residents to go.
    These residents, until I left, hadn't even been outside for 2 years and hadn't breathed in fresh air in that time

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  • There is a lesson for us all here. Remember hearing of those wards where patients were daily wheeled on their beds out onto verandahs to help treat their tuberculosed lungs? Or sent to Swiss clinics to take the cleaner air?
    I work in a community hospital (NHS PFI) in Scotland where there are closable vents along the top of each window, similar to tilt-and-turn types the top two thirds of the windows open out to around 7cm or 'lock' open at around 0.5cm which, especially in Scotland's breezy weather, can be surprisingly bracing! Incidentally, these windows reach down to around 45cm off the floor so patients lying in bed can observe the gardens and comings and goings out-with the building.
    Staff can lift the safety catches off and completely air the room.
    A frail, bed-bound patient replied "just to be able to feel fresh air on my face" when asked if there was anything else she needed that day. Due to the design of the windows this was do-able - "just what the doctor ordered".
    Where able, patients have access to the surrounding hospital gardens. The hospital is situated right beside a wild green place within the city boundary. Trees abound, are beautiful to look at, listen to - rustling in the wind, birds come and go singing and whistling their tunes, are environmentally and spiritually friendly. [Squirrels have been a nuisance in the past due to the occasional patient throwing food out or encouraging them up to the windows. Then, windows were only left open at 0.5cm to prevent an invasion.]
    I do hope this Study will be taken seriously by health care providers and solutions sought to improve the air quality within their existing buildings, along with the building designers of the future commissioned to allow for this fundamental human need. For those who enjoy feeling the wind in their face and breathing fresh air, their quality of life will surely be enhanced.

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