Published on January 4, 2011 · Category News, Press
This is a transcript from The World Today. The program has been broadcast around Australia on ABC Local Radio:

ELEANOR HALL: Asthma experts are concerned about increasing cases of rising damp in Australian homes and the risks that that poses to asthma sufferers. The Royal Australian Institute of Architects has conducted a nation-wide survey, revealing that South Australia has the highest number of homes affected by rising damp.

Australia has one of the highest asthma rates in the world with more than 2 million sufferers and the new results have prompted a health warning from Asthma Foundation of Victoria.

The Foundation’s Chief Executive Robin Ould, has been telling Tanya Nolan the level of rising damp in a home can in many cases, trigger a potentially fatal attack in some asthma sufferers.

ROBIN OULD: A lot of people’s asthma is triggered by dust mites, by fungus and by the spores or the pollen that comes out of mould. So that where you’ve got an environment that’s conducive to the build up of mould and mildew and harbours dust mites and increases the environment where dust mites can thrive then the potential there is for people with asthma to have their asthma triggered in the home.

TANYA NOLAN: So does is exacerbate the asthma condition or can it actually trigger a very severe asthma attack?

ROBIN OULD: It can do both. It can exacerbate a person’s asthma and bring on an attack, which could potentially become quite severe.

TANYA NOLAN: And what are you noticing about the increasing numbers of architects who are reporting rising damp in homes?

ROBIN OULD: Well, I think it’s an interesting survey that the archicentre has done, which is looking at about 65,000 homes across Australia and shows that up to about 30 per cent of homes, particularly those that were built in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, the damp course that was put in bricks has broken down and potentially therefore can damage the home, and has this side effect where it can decrease the environment for people with asthma in their homes.

TANYA NOLAN: And is it one of the more common health risks for asthma sufferers?

ROBIN OULD: I think so. When we think about asthma the environment and indoor environment is very important, but there’s 101 different triggers for people with asthma that can vary from moving from hot temperatures into cold air conditioned rooms, anxiety, flues, dust mites, food allogens, there’s a lot of different things, but this is one that is starting to raise its head and that we’re focussing on this week.

TANYA NOLAN: So is there much that can be done, but is it really a case that asthma sufferers have to move out of very damp homes?

ROBIN OULD: No, I think there’s two different types of solutions.

One is, talking to an architect to get the problem eradicated and fixed and there can be a lot of remedial renovation work that can fix that problem long term for people.

But people should also be mindful of the fact that they need to have a regular maintenance routine – make sure that they remove mould and mildew, that they dust regularly, that they vacuum regularly and that they try to improve the environment by not having those sorts of things that trigger their asthma blowing around.

ELEANOR HALL: Robin Ould is the Chief Executive of the Asthma Foundation of Victoria. He was speaking to Tanya Nolan.

© Australian Broadcasting Corporation