Case Study; Finding the cause of recurring asthma attacks in the home.


Asthma attacks that regularly occur in the home are often linked to mould, but is there a bigger danger that many should be looking out for?

Damp detectives were recently called out to a home where a young girl was suffering from life threatening asthma and was having regular attacks. The girl and her mother were moved there by the Local Housing Authority, who thought they were moving them into an old fashioned property that was in good condition. The mother always kept the house spotless but the daughter would have attacks regularly in the home and she had to move out. The Local Housing Authority thought the problem was insufficient ventilation so then fitted a Positive Pressure Fan in the loft to push fire and debris in the air towards and exhaust point, in an effort to improve the situation. When the girl returned to the house with her mother, what happened next stunned them all. Within minutes of entering the house the daughter had such a bad asthma attack she was rushed to hospital for emergency treatment.

As typically seen in cases like this, everything under the sun was blamed as the cause of this horrific attack that the daughter faced, but the Mother wasn’t convinced of any of them. She turned to a company that she knew would provide independent advice with a hope of finding exactly what was causing such a poor existence for her child. That is where Damp Detectives where brought in.
The first thing that Damp Detectives noticed during the inspection was that the loft was covered in a fine film of soot. The mother had also told the Local Housing Association that she had to sweep up a fine film of soot in the lounge and kitchen everyday. This strange appearance of soot was explained by a Local Housing Official as the results of passing diesel trains. Damp Detectives considered this to be incorrect as the track nearby has a mix of diesel and electric trains, 300m down wind of the home and was the only home on the street that was affected by soot. They decided to investigate further.

During the investigation it was found that the chimneys in the lounge, bedrooms and kitchen were sealed off, however, the kitchen chimney was placed behind the kitchen cabinets and not closed off. From all of this Damp Detectives could clearly see that the introduction of a Positive Pressure Fan was at best counter productive, and at worst positively dangerous. The fan wasn’t pulling any debris from inside the house out, it was instead it was drawing air into the house from the soot laden loft and filling the house with the dangerous soot and particles that were then causing the daughter to suffer from these horrendous attacks.

A sensor in the daughter’s (now empty) bedroom showed VOC levels going off the scale when it was windy, and the readout below showed that the level of VOCs hit over 1200 when the safe limit is 300.

An explanation of what VOCs are can be found on this link;

From this experience, Damp Detectives believe that damp and mould aren’t the only causes of asthma in the home, soot and VOCs are also likely to be a strong contributing factor in properties that are not properly ventilated. If you or a family member are suffering from frequent asthma attacks in the home and you are struggling to find the cause, contact your local Damp Detective for an independent damp survey. We may just be able to locate the issue at the source.