Image of nurses' hands at computer keyboard

Nursing home residents are living longer while becoming exposed to a toxic cocktail of indoor pollutant that could make them more susceptible to chronic lung diseases like COPD, European researchers reported Thursday.

Study authors said the research, published in the European Respiratory Journal, is the first to detail the negative effects of poor air quality in nursing homes across several countries. Six hundred residents in 50 nursing homes across seven European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Poland and Sweden) participated in the study.

Researchers assessed accumulated data on five indoor air pollutants: PM10 and PM0.1 (particulate matter), formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3). Sources of the pollutants included heaters, building materials, furniture, cleaning products, disinfectants and cooling systems.

Moderate to high levels of PM10 and NO2 were associated with breathlessness and cough, researchers noted, while similar levels of PM0.1 were associated with wheeze and moderate to high concentrations of formaldehyde were linked with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“Our findings have shown an independent effect of several indoor air pollutants on the lung health of the elderly living in nursing homes,” Isabella Annesi-Maesano, Ph.D., lead author, said. 

Annesi-Maesano called on nursing homes to “do more to prevent indoor air pollution by limiting its sources and by improving ventilation in their buildings” and regularly monitor residents’ respiratory health.