Improving home insulation and heating can help to improve health

Two articles came across my computer screen this week which started me thinking. What are the connections between the work of The HEAT Project and the COVID 19 pandemic?

The obvious answer is of course that they are both related to our treatment of the natural world. The HEAT Project exists as part of our fight against the climate emergency, caused by our profligate use of fossil fuels and consequent increases in atmospheric CO2 levels. The cause of pandemic has been traced to destruction of habitat in a remote part of China.

But what I am referring to lies a little closer to home. First, an article in the Guardian of 5th September headlined – Covid-19 ‘could be endemic in deprived parts of England’.

This article cites evidence from local authorities and Public Health England linking the incidence of COVID 19 to, among other things, poor housing.

This is perhaps not so surprising as evidence already links the severity of COVID 19 symptoms to conditions such as asthma which are in turn linked to cold and damp housing.

Next, a report by the excellent Energy Agency in Ayrshire, which has studied the links between improved levels of home insulation and health (as well as comfort, fuel bills and energy use).

While this was a small study, and the methods used to survey health changes were not rigorous, some improvements in physical and mental health were reported.

house-insulation

This should not be surprising. The World Health Organization and NHS both recommend a minimum indoor temperature of 18°C, and ideally 21°C if babies or elderly people live in the house.

If house temperatures fall below 16°C, the risk of respiratory illness increases. This is because cold houses are also usually damp, which can lead to respiratory symptoms.

While there is no direct evidence of a link between cold damp houses and Covid19 (yet), it seems common sense that part of our drive to eradicate Covid must include a rapid improvement in housing energy standards.

For me, the evidence just seems to support what common sense already tells me. Warmer, drier homes lead directly to improvements in health and wellbeing. And reductions in fuel bills allow more household income to be spent on healthy food – a real win win.

By Martin Mathers

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