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May 7, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Student Health – Warm Up Your Place Today!

You can’t beat Wellington on a good day but on a cold wet and windy day it can be a bit difficult to be so positive.
This is especially so when your living environment is cold and damp and there is mould climbing up the walls. Although New Zealand has a temperate climate we have a very high rainfall and this makes the temperature we experience lower than would be expected for a temperate country. Students from subarctic areas of Canada and Eastern Europe have told me they find winter colder here than at home and wonder why our houses are so ‘thin’. The houses we live in are designed for warmer temperatures and the majority (over 70 per cent) of houses do not have adequate ceiling and under floor insulation. In fact homes build before 1978 which includes many student flats often have no or substandard insulation. During winter the temperatures of living areas and bedrooms in many New Zealand houses are well below the World Health Organisation suggested minimum of 18 degrees celsius. Obvious signs with which many of you will be familiar that our housing is inadequate include condensation dripping from windows, dragon’s breath inside, mould and basically feeling cold.

Adequate home heating should not be considered a luxury it is just as important for caring for our health as eating nutritious foods, not smoking, getting adequate sleep and exercise. The negative health effects of inadequate insulation and heating are well documented. Cold living conditions places stress on our immune and circulatory systems causing increased rates of asthma and respiratory infections which leads to frequent episodes of illness visits to the doctor, hospital admissions and time off work and study. In the elderly, cold living conditions make their blood thicker and blood clots are more likely to form causing heart attacks and strokes.

HELP IS AVAILABLE

The Healthy Housing Programme is actively looking to fully fund the insulation of homes built before 2000 including
flats for people who have a current Community Service Card (CSC) and who have housing related health conditions such as asthma, skin infections including eczema and heart conditions. Information about the programme is available oncompassnetwork.org.nz/services/healthy_ housing/ or better still ask your nurse or doctor about the programme. Contact us now before winter sets in and before free funding for ‘Warm Up Capital and Coast’ programme ends in June.

When thinking about heating options think safety first. Some heaters such as unflued gas heaters may look an attractive option cost-wise but they are not a healthy or safe option. They should not be used in small unventilated rooms especially bedrooms. This is because unflued gas heaters release chemicals such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide into the air you breathe. These chemicals are potentially poisonous. Unflued gas heaters also release a lot of water vapour which not only makes the room more difficult to heat but also promotes the growth of mould and dust. A safer heating option would be an electric heater.

A place you can go to keep warm are the libraries on campus or in town. You can get lots of study done and keep warm at the same time. Perfect.

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