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Indoor air affecting our health ?

Indoor air affecting our health ? PHAC's first report

New Zealand's poor indoor air quality is contributing to ill health particularly in older people, young children and Mäori, a report released to Government today shows.

People spend about 80 percent of their time indoors, but there is little or no monitoring of domestic air quality the Public Health Advisory Committee's (PHAC's) first report to government, The Health of People and Communities states.

PHAC spokesman Alistair Woodward says sources of indoor pollutants include poor quality housing, unvented gas appliances and second-hand tobacco smoke.

"Older uninsulated housing is often damp, cold and mouldy," Alistair Woodward says. "These conditions contribute to poor health, particularly for people in low socio-economic groups including older people and Mäori.

"Newer housing is often airtight with little ventilation and this has the potential to create the damp conditions associated with toxic fungi. Unvented gas appliances and second-hand smoke release toxins and particles that aggravate respiratory and heart conditions."

Highlighting environmental issues and their link to ill health and contribution to health inequalities, the PHAC report also covers: outdoor air quality ? New Zealand research indicates that ambient air pollution is responsible for an estimated 970 premature deaths each year in people over 30 years of age, with about 400 of these due to vehicle emissions. water quality including drinking water, surface and ground water, and sanitation ? faecal contamination from dairy farming is a major pressure on inland waterways. Small rural communities are more likely to experience contamination of water supplies from failed or inadequate sewage disposal systems. the quality of life in urban environments ? with 86 percent of New Zealanders living in urban areas the demand for land, housing, energy, transport and waste disposal is putting pressure on the environment and this needs to be sustainably managed. the health affects of climate change ? human health is dependent on the sustainability of natural systems and the indications are that the natural environment will change as the climate changes through such factors as global warming.

"In bringing this report together PHAC's focus has been on aspects of environmental health that are important determinants of health and health inequalities," Alistair Woodward says.

"The issues we've chosen are those impacting disproportionately on communities and groups that already have poorer health status than other New Zealanders. We have the potential to make considerable health gains for these people by addressing many of these issues.

"Gaps in activity and monitoring mean this isn't currently happening. What's needed now is an integrated, intersectoral approach to policy making and monitoring to address environmental health issues."

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