Can Central Heating Make You Ill
Is it now becoming evident that central heating could be having an adverse effect on millions of vulnerable people’s health issues during the winter months?
A quote from the Daily Mail explores this - “Cosy draught proof airtight homes maybe causing an epidemic or respiratory infections and heart disease according to research.
Studies show that the risk is highest in homes built in the past 20 years due to stringent green building regulations which is aimed at cutting fuel use by fitting impermeable glazing and insulation which have created airtight homes! Older properties could be at risk too”
Central heating enables allergens and moulds to flourish, this creates ideal conditions for bacterial development.
The dust particles then become airborne from heat convection – this raises exposure levels of the indoor air we breathe. Poor indoor air quality is a known trigger for allergic reactions.
Some sufferers find that their asthma symptoms flare up when they first turn on their central heating systems after the weather changes. This has to do with dust mites that respond well to the comfortable dry heat.
We have become familiar with radiators in the home we do not associate them to health issues that occur.
Especially for the vulnerable occupants and the possible link to increased exposure levels of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) and allergens contained in dust particles.
The dust and allergens are then being circulated and suspended in the air we breathe indoors. These are known potent triggers of respiratory reactions that could result in emergency hospital admissions - records show peaks during the winter months, especially in September and December for Asthma sufferers.
Health Implications From The Exposure To Household Dust:
These are types of household dust in your home and the one thing that is going unnoticed is no one seems to even think about the dust behind the radiator!
· House Dust Mites
House dust mites thrive in high humidity environments which moistens their major food source: human skin scales.
They excrete a range of highly allergenic proteins that have been identified both as a causal mechanism in the development of asthma and as irritants likely to trigger and exacerbate asthmatic symptoms.
· Microbial Taxa
Majority of human time is spent indoors in increasingly urban environments, spending more time with microbial tax.
Microbial taxa in household dust can have both negative and positive impacts on human health. Negative impacts include triggers of allergies and asthma.
· Particulate Matter
Particulate matter and indoor air quality are associated with cardiovascular diseases for particulate matter in indoor air, numerous studies indicate that these may affect occupant health even at very low values.
Here are some key facts from Asthma UK on Asthma Hospital admissions:
- 4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
- Every 10 seconds someone is having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack in the UK.
- On average, 3 people die from an asthma attack in the UK every day
- Around 200,000 people in the UK have severe asthma, this is a debilitating form of the condition that doesn’t respond to usual treatments and can cause people to be in and out of hospital
- The NHS spends around £1 billion a year treating and caring for people with asthma.
- In 2016/17 (the most recent data available) there were 77,124 admissions to hospital for asthma in the UK.
- In 2017 (the most recent data available) 1,484 people in the UK died from an asthma attack in the UK
Records show that emergency hospital admissions peak in September and December annually from 2006 – 2017, there are several possible explanations for this occurrence but one that stands out could be linked to our Central Heating!
September is the season change and we start to use our central heating for the first time as the chilled nights start to move in.
December is the festive holiday season when the majority of the population is indoors with the heating on for longer periods of time for our comfort.
See below charts of Hospital Admissions for Asthma Sufferers for 2013/2014 – this information was provided by Keele University Research. As you can see there is a peak in September and December.
It's estimated that the number of people with asthma will grow by more than 100 million by 2025! Similar to asbestos, a significant proportion of the current asthma pandemic and ill health that is being driven by poor indoor air quality!
Did you know? - Keele Research Report
- Hospitals currently acknowledge that radiators are a potential haven for pathogens and bacteria. This is evidenced through numerous hospital cleaning guidelines having clearly defined methods and regimes to follow when cleaning radiators.
- Radiators are classed as a non-critical area in relation to cleaning, yet they are one of the only non-critical areas which have an inaccessible section which can allow dust accumulation.
- Studies have linked radiators being used after a long period of inactivity and the spread of bacteria.
Are Central Heating Radiators Still Practical in Modern Environments?
The answer is yes! They are one of the most efficient sources of heating for high heat efficiency, but does the method of installation need to be improved?
We believe by just changing the method of installation to make radiators fully accessible for periodic deep cleaning to maintain reduced indoor air exposure of circulated dust particles containing contaminants.
Which is now possible by retrofit upgrade without the need to replace existing radiators circa. 190 million radiators installed across the UK.
There is also no need for manufacturers to change the design or manufacturing processes of new panel radiators.
From research carried out by Keele University - See Keele Research Report it can be said that radiators influence the movement of air in a room. The velocity of the air and particles in the room is greatest above the radiator, where thermal plumes extend directly upwards and deflect across the ceiling
Occupants are at higher exposure risk to the particles near the radiator. Sources of turbulent air (e.g. heating/cooling, ventilation, occupant movement) can re-suspend deposited particulate matter.
Air tightness for thermal efficiency in buildings could exacerbate dust accumulation due to lack of ventilation, particularly when human behaviour is taken into account with our decision to change the air in buildings and the length of time, we typically spend indoors which is 90%.
So we ask you to take some time to go around every radiator in your house or it may be a commercial building you work in and look and see what is lurking behind your radiator, if you have radiator covers, they will be the worst for dust accumulation!
By being able to access your radiators for periodic cleaning to remove the dust this could make a significant contribution to improving your health!