Last updated May 29, 2018 at 10:00 am
Damp houses and gas stoves are major causes of childhood asthma.
A national strategy is needed to increase awareness of the risks of asthma to children, researchers from the University of Queensland say.
They say most parents are aware of ways to minimise exposure to dust mites, pollen and animal hair through vacuuming and replacing carpets with hard flooring, but other indoor exposures are not as well recognised.
“We found that 12 per cent of childhood asthma is attributable to exposure to gas stoves used for cooking, and eight per cent is linked to household dampness,” said Dr Luke Knibbs, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Health.
Cooking with gas releases chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde, which cause inflammation in the airways and exacerbate asthma. With 38 per cent of Australian homes using natural gas for stovetop cooking, this is a common problem.
“Using high-efficiency rangehoods could reduce the amount of childhood asthma associated with gas stoves from 12 per cent to just three per cent,” Knibbs and colleagues write in the Medical Journal of Australia.
“The preferred option is to make sure the rangehood is vented outdoors, rather than a hood that recirculates the air. Even in homes without a rangehood, opening windows during and after cooking can help reduce exposure.”
The study identified dampness in 26 per cent of Australian homes. The researchers say simple ways to reduce the problem include better ventilation, using room dehumidifiers and limiting use of clothes dryers.
Australia has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world and it is a leading cause of illness in children.