The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has voiced its concern over the alarming findings by the Resolution Foundation which states that over one in three households across England will be paying higher energy bills this winter compared to last. Disturbingly, this statistic includes nearly half of the nation's poorest families.
As the professional voice for environmental health, CIEH are specifically concerned about the impact this may have on public health and associated costs for our health service. We know that cold homes pose a significant risk to health, increasing the risk of chronic ill-health such as respiratory infections, cardiovascular health, the onset of asthma as well as a higher risk of stroke. According to Age UK, cold homes are costing the NHS in England £1.36 billion every year.
The recent "Manifesto for Environmental Health 2023" published by the CIEH underscores the pressing need to improve energy efficiency standards in homes, ensuring they are environmentally sustainable and cost-effective for residents. The manifesto further emphasises the commitment to promoting better indoor and outdoor air quality and addressing poor housing conditions, such as damp and mould.
The implications of inefficient energy use aren't confined simply to monetary concerns. Inadequate insulation and heating can lead to damp and mould, compromising indoor air quality and posing significant health risks, especially for children and the elderly, as illustrated in the tragic case of the recent death of 2-year-old Awaab Ishak due to a respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to the mould in his family’s flat.
EHOs have a crucial role to play in protecting vulnerable people in all types of tenure against poor housing conditions in inspecting and enforcing housing regulations to ensure social housing is safe, habitable, and warm.
CIEH urge policymakers to heed the warnings outlined in the report from the Resolution Foundation and take urgent action by providing targeted energy efficiency measures to households most in need ahead of this coming winter.
Louise Hosking, Executive Director of Environmental Health at CIEH, said:
"The rise in energy bills is not just a financial issue, but an environmental health concern. Cold homes can lead to health issues, particularly in vulnerable groups. Our Manifesto for Environmental Health clearly outlines the need for homes that are not only energy efficient but also promote good public health through optimal air quality.
As recent tragic cases have highlighted, cold homes pose a significant risk to public. Therefore, we urge policymakers to recognise these risks and to act urgently ahead of the winter months.”