Recommendation ID

What interventions are effective and cost effective at raising awareness of the health risks of damp and mould in the home?

Any explanatory notes
(if applicable)

Why the committee made the recommendations
Good evidence showed that exposure to poor indoor air quality is linked to a range of health problems. This includes respiratory conditions such as a cough, wheezing or asthma, and allergic symptoms such as a runny nose or eye irritation. Certain groups are more vulnerable, either because of their personal circumstances or because of where they live. Because poor indoor air quality is a hidden health threat, raising awareness is a first step in reducing the risk of long-term health issues, especially for vulnerable groups.
In the committee's experience, professionals such as care workers and health visitors, and the public, are generally unaware of the factors affecting indoor air quality. The same applies to private and social landlords, and those who regulate them.
Similarly, the committee agreed that not all professionals who see people in their home know who is likely to be most vulnerable to poor indoor air quality. And they will not necessarily know how to get help for those who cannot afford repairs or modifications.
Evidence showed that advice given on sources of poor indoor air quality could reduce people's risk of exposure. This includes general advice on using ventilation systems, barriers to heating and ventilation, and more specific advice about particular situations and activities, including how to get a housing assessment.
The committee noted that people on a low income, particularly in poorly insulated homes, may not be able to afford effective heating and may try to make their homes airtight to keep heat in. This, in turn, can mean the ventilation is less effective. They also may not be able to afford to heat all rooms to a constant temperature, or may only use heating occasionally (for example, when expecting a home visit). Both approaches can cause damp and condensation.
The committee were also aware of the increased risk for those who cannot afford remedial work or have to rely on landlords or property managers to do the work. In both cases, this could leave them exposed to pollutants while they wait for it to be done. The committee pointed out that there are enforcement powers that local authorities can use to ensure compliance with regulations. (See recommendation 1.6.2 and also the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's Housing health and safety rating system operating guidance.)
Most of the evidence focused on homes where a problem had already been identified. The committee agreed that research is needed on how to give people information on identifying the sources of the problem in the first place. Also, the committee considered that further research on the health impact of pollutants, alone or in combination with each other, would help identify the pollutant or combination of pollutants that have the largest impact on people's health. This research would also provide useful information to help raise awareness around indoor air pollutants. (See research recommendations 1 and 5.)

How the recommendations might affect practice
The government clean air strategy 2019 already outlines how the government and local authorities need to raise awareness of poor indoor air quality. These recommendations support the strategy and should have minimal additional impact.
Resident satisfaction from improved health outcomes should result in resource savings elsewhere in the system and will offset costs. For social landlords, improved tenant satisfaction reduces both the time properties are left vacant and the likelihood of compensation claims.
It is not expected that any extra resources would be needed. Staff may need training on raising awareness of poor indoor air quality and in giving advice in a language the tenant understands. But incorporating this into existing general training and continuous professional development could minimise costs. Improved health outcomes leading to potentially fewer hospital visits, GP visits, or visits from community nurses should result in resource savings elsewhere in the system and will offset costs.

Full details of the evidence and the committee's discussion are in evidence review 4: effective strategies for raising awareness.

Source guidance details

Comes from guidance
Indoor air quality at home
Date issued
January 2020

Other details

Is this a recommendation for the use of a technology only in the context of research? No  
Is it a recommendation that suggests collection of data or the establishment of a register?   No  
Last Reviewed 31/01/2020