21 Oct 2018

Wood and coal fires linked to child skin conditions - study

7:52 am on 21 October 2018

New Zealand researchers have found smoke from domestic fires may cause not only respiratory diseases, but skin conditions as well.

Wood burner

Photo: 123RF

Data from the University of Auckland's Growing Up in New Zealand study shows that children living in neighbourhoods where there are more wood or coal fire-heated houses may be at greater risk of skin diseases.

The findings in this study suggest high densities of residential fires could be creating significant health problems for children, particularly as housing density increases.

Researcher Dr Hakkan Lai examined data from nearly 3500 of the more than 6500 study children.

"While it's been known that respiratory diseases may be triggered by wood smoke, the concept that neighbourhoods with high emissions of wood or coal smoke might trigger skin diseases is relatively new to science," Dr Lai said.

He said there have only been four studies on this subject internationally and they focused on the heating in the child's own home, rather than their neighbourhood.

In their first four years of life, 40 percent of the children received respiratory medication prescriptions, 71 percent received skin medication prescriptions.

Another 79 percent received either respiratory or skin medication prescriptions during the cooler season.

Most of the skin medication prescriptions were for the treatment of atopic dermatitis, or eczema.

"It's crucial for the health of our most vulnerable New Zealanders that we use wood burners responsibly and continue adopting cleaner forms of home heating in New Zealand, such as heat pumps and pellet burners," he said.

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