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Leaky buildings: the health effects?

Monday 25 February 2008

Leaky buildings: what do we know about the health effects?

The University of Otago’s Public Health Department in Wellington is for the first time drawing together experts from New Zealand and overseas to discuss the impacts of leaky buildings on health in two workshops.

The first workshop will be at the University of Otago, Wellington on Thursday February 28 and the second at University of Otago House, central Auckland on Monday March 3.

This is an opportunity for health experts, researchers, the building industry, local bodies and Government to discuss and learn about the health effects and health costs associated with leaky buildings in New Zealand and overseas. Housing Minister Maryan Street will attend the workshop in Wellington and the Minister of Building and Housing Shane Jones in Auckland.

“This workshop is not only about the current debate over the health effects of recent leaky buildings, and the development of unhealthy mould and damp, but also older houses in our community, a third of which already have these problems,” says workshop Chair Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman from the University of Otago, Wellington.

Professor Howden Chapman says there are significant health risks associated with internal dampness, mould and fungi in our houses and they need to be addressed by industry, health authorities and government.

She says we have a high asthma rate with 15% to 20% of people suffering from this chronic respiratory condition, which can be life-threatening. Research by University of Otago’s Professor Julian Crane and others has shown that being sensitised to mould increased the risk of having severe asthma in adults. Internal mould also has negative effects on people suffering from immune deficiency.

“Leaking, damp homes are costing us extra in health dollars every year and having a real impact on the general population. Leaky buildings are a more severe problem because mould often also develops behind walls. We think it’s very important to find out more about the effects. ”

“We’re pleased that City Councils in both Auckland and Wellington have supported this workshop because it provides a public forum for people to find out about the latest research and to talk about possible policy solutions for this serious problem which affects many in the wider community”

Keynote speaker Professor Aino Nevalainen from the National Public Health Institute in Finland is a European expert on dampness and mould in houses, and how it affects different building materials such as gibralter board. She will detail latest international research findings, what the EU is doing about the problem, and what the health effects are of remediating buildings with mould.

Professor Julian Crane from the University of Otago, Wellington will speak on the ‘Effect of Mould on Asthma Severity’ and the effects of mould eradication. “Damp and Mould and the Great Indoors” will be the focus of Associate Professor Jeroen Douwes from Massey University. He brings wide international experience about non-specific effects from mould..

A response from the Government to the issues raised will be provided by the Hon Maryan Street in Wellington, the Hon Shane Jones in Auckland and Peter Thorby from the Department of Building and Housing.

Other speakers for both Wellington and Auckland are detailed in the attached programme.

ENDS

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