Disclosures: Kovesi is a member of the board of governors of the Ontario Lung Association. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
January 25, 2022
2 min read

Poor indoor air quality, housing linked with respiratory issues in First Nations children

Disclosures: Kovesi is a member of the board of governors of the Ontario Lung Association. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
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Poor indoor air quality and housing conditions were associated with respiratory issues in young First Nations children living in Northern Ontario, researchers reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“Surveys have found that more than 24% of [First Nations] and Inuit housing is overcrowded or in need of major repairs or both, compared with 6% elsewhere in Canada. Issues related to [indoor environmental quality] are anecdotally reported to be common,” Thomas Kovesi, MD, pediatric respirologist, clinical investigator at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and professor of pediatrics in the department of pediatrics at the University of Ottawa, Canada, and colleagues wrote. “Few studies have quantified [indoor environmental quality] in [First Nations] housing, and most have focused on road-accessible communities.”

Source: Adobe Stock.

Kovesi and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study that included 98 First Nations children (mean age, 1.6 years) residing in four First Nations Communities in the Sioux Lookout region of Northern Ontario. The researchers reviewed medical records and housing inspections that included quantifying the interior surface area of mold. All participants were administered a validated respiratory health questionnaire and air quality was monitored for 5 days in each home.

Twenty-one percent of the children were admitted to the hospital for respiratory infections prior to age 2 years.

The housing inspections revealed that the houses were generally crowded, with a mean occupancy of 6.6 people per house.

Researchers reported frequent serious housing issues such as a lack of functioning controlled ventilation with a heat recovery ventilator due to an absent or non-working device or unused devices in 85% of houses, signs of water damage in exterior walls in 44% and immediate safety issues in 6%. Mean surface area of mold in occupied spaces was 0.2 m2.

The researchers also reported evidence of associations between lower respiratory tract infections and log endotoxin (P = .07) and age (P =.02), as well as for upper respiratory tract infections and surface area of mold (P = .07) and age (P = .03). In addition, there was an association between wheeze and cold and log endotoxin (P = .03) and age (P = .04).

The researchers highlighted a need to improve housing and infrastructure in these communities to benefit overall health in this population.

“Increased housing stock appropriate for local geographic, climatic and cultural needs should be matched to solutions that are [First Nations] led and governed. Economic opportunity, elimination of food insecurity and provision of potable water will allow communities and residents to apply more resources to the upkeep of existing houses,” the researchers wrote in a press release from the Canadian Medical Association Journal. “Such measures will improve the overall health of [First Nations] peoples, particularly vulnerable family members, such as children and elders.”