Poor air quality in care homes poses risk to resident health

Chemicals in buildings, furniture and cleaning products released into the air could be harming the health of their elderly residents in care homes, a new study has found. Researchers from the EU-funded GERIE research project looked at the impact of indoor air pollutants from sources including heaters, building materials, furniture, cleaning products, disinfectants and cooling systems on 600 residents in nursing homes across Europe.

Mean concentrations of air pollutants did not exceed existing standards, but even at low levels indoor air quality affected respiratory health in elderly people permanently living in nursing homes. Effects were modulated with ventilation, although only 19% of residents in the study were found to be living in care homes with adequate ventilation.The full findings are published in the European Respiratory Journal.

Dr Isabella Annesi-Maesano of France’s Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherce Medicale, 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. Nursing homes should do more to prevent indoor air pollution by limiting its sources and by improving ventilation in their buildings. The respiratory health of residents should also be checked on a regular basis.”

Dan Smyth, chair of the European Lung Foundation said: “The majority of lung diseases are preventable, therefore we must focus on strategies that target the risk factors linked to these diseases. These findings add to a body of evidence confirming that indoor air pollution is one of these risk factors.”

Smart sensors

At the same time a research project in Scotland is aiming to come up with smart sensors that will help manage air quality in buildings, as well as producing green benefits. Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and specialist sensor maker Gas Sensing Solutions are collaborating to produce smart sensors to detect and change air quality and energy conditions in buildings, helping to provide more comfortable living environments and reduce power consumption.

The research team will investigate smart sensors used in a range of applications, such as building energy management systems, to anticipate and respond to changing conditions with minimal human intervention. Most sensors cannot yet make intelligent real-time decisions but it is expected that smart sensors using random neural networks will provide a self-learning network. Wireless sensors from Gas Sensing Solutions are based on measuring carbon dioxide, temperature and humidity, without a need for a connected power source.

Dr Larijani, senior lecturer in the Department of Computer, Communications and Interactive Systems at GCU said: “With our combined technologies we will be developing the next generation of smart indoor air quality wireless sensors which will have a high impact on energy efficiency in buildings and occupant comfort. We hope to also look into expanding into new applications such as healthcare.”


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