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Health Impacts of Poorly Heated Homes

Health Impacts of Poorly Heated Homes

Families living in cold homes face serious risks to their health and quality of life.

In the last 15 years, long term scientific studies have been funded and conducted by European and US governments to document the health impacts of people living in fuel poverty due to alarming statistical data indicating a repeated pattern of high winter mortality rates, 16-18% excess deaths.

Fuel poverty refers to people who live in cold homes either because they cannot afford to heat their homes or do not choose to allocate adequate finances to heat their homes due to other reasons.

World Health Organization arrived at three classifications of fuel poverty based on interior home temperature bands and their associated dominant types of health problems.

  1.  Less than 16° C causes respiratory problems.
    1. Respiratory problems are caused by the growth of mould,
    2. dampness, low oxygen, and polluted poor air quality in the home.
    3. Resistance to respiratory infections is lowered.
    4. Functioning of lungs is impaired.
    5. Bronco-constriction and asthma triggered.
    6. High risk of chronic pulmonary diseases.
  2. Less than 12° C causes circulatory problems.
    1. Temperature in this range causes the narrowing of blood  vessels.
    2. Increasing blood pressure.
    3. Increase in blood thickness, as fluid is lost from circulation.
    4. Increased blood viscosity increases the risk of strokes and heart       attacks.
  3. Less than 5-6° C causes hyperthermia. High risk and danger to life for the sick, elderly and infants.

WHO recommends a minimum indoor temperature of 18 ° C or more in winter.
Higher minimum indoor temperatures are required for homes with infants, children, elderly and people suffering from illness.

Listed below are the conclusions of various scientific studies on the health impacts of cold homes on the most vulnerable members of the family.

Impact of cold homes on infants

  • Low weight gain
  • Increased hospital admissions
  • Developmental status negatively impacted
  • Increased severity and frequencies of asthmatic symptoms

Impact of cold homes on children

  • Children are twice as likely to suffer from respiratory diseases
  • 1 in 4 adolescents likely to develop anxiety and depression
  • Negative impacts recorded in -Resilience and emotional wellbeing
  • Educational attainment
  • Cognitive development
  • Physical growth

Impact of cold homes on the elderly and sick

  • Worsening of existing medical conditions
  • including diabetes and ulcers
  • Arthritis and rheumatism
  • Muscular and skeletal pains
  • Rise in blood pressure
  • Risk of strokes
  • Lowering of muscle strength and dexterity
  • High risk of injuries and accidents
  • Increase in colds and flu
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Risk of higher mortality