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Gas heater link to child illness

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/12/2016

Home gas heaters have been found to increase the chance of respiratory illnesses in young children, according to Auckland University research.

The research points to an increased risk of hospitalisations for acute respiratory infections in children under five if gas was used to heat the room they slept in during their first year of life.

Paediatrician Dr Cameron Grant, from the university's Centre for Longitudinal Research, says the quality of housing is an issue of major concern in New Zealand.

A research team from the centre investigated the relationship between internal living environments and respiratory disease as part of a longitudinal study of child development, Growing Up in New Zealand.

The results were published in the journal Environmental Health.

Dr Grant said one in five mothers in the study reported frequent presence of dampness and condensation in the room where the child slept.

"Although these factors were positively linked to the incidence of acute respiratory infections, the association was no longer statistically significant after we adjusted for the use of gas heating," he said.

"The independent relationship with gas heating identifies this as an area which, if addressed, could reduce the number of children admitted to hospital with these respiratory infections."

Among the 7000 families that participated in the study, one in seven mothers reported using a flued gas heater, and one in eight an unflued gas heater.

Dr Grant said gas heaters, particularly if unflued, emitted moisture and a number of pollutants that affected children's respiratory health.

"This is a type of household heating that has been banned in a number of other countries, but there are no such restrictions in New Zealand."

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