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Structures found to be cause of asthma in Montreal children

A study released on June 2 by the Montreal Public Health and Social Services Agency (DSP) blames humidity and mould in housing units as the major cause of children having asthma and other respiratory problems.


A study released on June 2 by the Montreal Public Health and Social Services Agency (DSP) blames humidity and mould in housing units as the major cause of children having asthma and other respiratory problems.

The study data from 8,000 parents living on the Island of Montreal during 2006 showed that one in four children aged 6 months to 12 years living on the island has a respiratory disease. Mould and humidity in their homes was found to be the biggest single cause.

The research led by Dr. Louis Jacques found that mould and excess moisture at home was responsible for 26% of the cases of respiratory infections, 17% of asthma cases and 14% of winter allergic rhinitis.

The report recommended that “the solutions lie in improving housing conditions and especially eliminating excess humidity and moulds; owners need to take better care of their buildings and municipalities on the island have to strictly apply regulations on housing maintenance and sanitation.”

The authority is blaming poorly maintained flat roofs on Montreal apartment buildings as the chief culprit. Norman King, an assistant manager with the public health department, explains that while the study itself did not specifically evaluate the role of flat roofs, other research by the authority into 200 buildings has led them to conclude the lack of maintaining flat roofs is a major problem in moisture issues.

Dr. Richard Lessard, the director of public health for Montreal, told the Montreal Gazette that he was surprised about the report finding a direct link between a child’s environment and their health. He was quoted as saying: “Action has to be taken by people other than health care professionals. Water infiltration into walls, ceilings and basements because of Montreal’s flat roof construction and subsequent lack of regular maintenance are creating serious health problems in children and their parents, and the health department should not have to pay for that.”

During the 12 months preceding the study, the research found that 63,000 of the 235,000 children studied had suffered from respiratory disease. Of them 12.8% (over 30,000) children had suffered from asthma, 13.3% had suffered from allergic rhinitis, and 6.3% had at least two respiratory infections. Children living in the inner city neighbourhoods in rental apartments had the highest rate of illness, and included neighbourhoods such as Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, and Pointe-aux-Trembles-Montreal-Est.

The study identified two other major causes of respiratory disease and asthma in the children but neither was as great an issue as the home’s moisture and mould. Exposure to tobacco smoke was blamed for 10% of asthma cases and 7% of respiratory infections. Lack of breastfeeding was found to be a factor in 11% of asthma cases.

The DSP is urging municipalities to improve the housing sock and sanitation.

“DSP” stands for Direction de santé publique de l’Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal. The report is available by clicking here.

 http://www.santepub-mtl.qc.ca/santerespiratoire/pdf_new/sante_respiratoire_rapport_synthese.pdf


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