Our buildings are making our children sick
(EurActiv, 21 Oct 2019) The buildings in which children in Europe are growing up in are making them sick. The youngest generation is losing healthy life years due to the poor state of the homes and schools that they spend much of their youth in. Its imperative that legislators across Europe implement the EU’s new building directive before the deadline in March 2020.
Ingrid Reumert is Vice President of Global Communications, Sustainability & Public Affairs in the VELUX Group.
1 out of 3 European children live in unhealthy buildings. The homes they live in have deficiencies that negatively affect indoor climates. The scale of the problem varies within individual EU countries, but when compared with the EU average, all countries have significant problems with their building stock. Such problems without remedies are causing health issues amongst the youngest and most vulnerable EU citizens. These are some of the findings of the Healthy Homes Barometer 2019, a scientific-based report on the health of EU buildings.
Unhealthy buildings are robbing children of healthy years of life
Living with housing deficiencies puts children’s health at risk. About 10-15 percent of new cases of childhood asthma in Europe can be attributed to exposure to dampness and mould indoors and this translates to more than 37,000 years of healthy, disease-free life lost.
Housing deficiencies include dampness or mould, darkness, noise and cold. Children living in homes with one of the four risk factors are 1.7 times more likely to report poor health. Children who are exposed to all four factors in their homes are strikingly 4.2 times more likely to report poor health.
More pressure on politicians needed to achieve healthy building solutions faster
There’s no doubt that the state of Europe’s ageing buildings needs to be dealt with if children’s lives and learning are to improve. However, with the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, Member States must now consider wider benefits, such as health, comfort and well-being, plus natural light when implementing it.
The directive requires that all Member States draft renovation strategies and implement them. This is much needed, considering that only 10 percent of European buildings currently have A or B class energy performance certificates. These long-term strategies should form the basis for how to transform old buildings with deficiencies into places where energy efficiency and indoor climate are conducive to healthy living and learning.