A prolonged stay in a nursing home can be detrimental for your lungs' health, apart from your pocket's health, says a new study.
The indoor air quality in nursing homes has a serious effect on the lung health of elderly residents, according to the study findings.
Researchers from the EU-funded GERIE research project collected data on five indoor air pollutants: PM10, PM0.1, formaldehyde, NO2 and O3.
These pollutants come from a range of sources including heaters, building materials, furniture, cleaning products, disinfectants and cooling systems.
"Our findings have shown an independent effect of several indoor air pollutants on the lung health of the elderly living in nursing homes," said lead study author Isabella Annesi-Maesano.
The researchers objectively assessed levels of the pollutants in 50 different nursing homes in seven countries - Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Poland and Sweden.
A total of 600 residents aged over 65 years were used in the study. Each participant underwent a number of clinical tests including lung function testing and a health questionnaire.
The results showed that exposure to high levels of PM10 and NO2 was significantly associated with breathlessness and cough.
High levels of PM0.1 were associated with wheeze during the last year and high concentrations of formaldehyde were linked with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The associations were even seen with moderate concentrations of indoor air pollutants that did not exceed the existing international guidelines.
With life expectancy increasing, more people are staying in nursing homes.
"This is a worrying problem since the body's ability to cope with harmful air pollutants decreases as we age.
"Nursing homes should do more to prevent indoor air pollution by limiting its sources and by improving ventilation in their buildings. The respiratory health of residents should also be checked on a regular basis," Annesi-Maesano added.
"These findings add to a body of evidence confirming that indoor air pollution is one of these risk factors. We must raise awareness of this," said Dan Smyth, chair of the European Lung Foundation.
The study was published online in the European Respiratory Journal.