Drying washing indoors poses severe health risk

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With winter approaching, doctors have issued warnings that drying washing indoors can pose a severe health risk to those with severe asthma or weakened immune systems.

Experts have discovered that placing wet clothes on drying frames or draping it over warm radiators increases the moisture levels in homes by around 30%. This creates a breeding ground for mould spores, particularly aspergillus fumigates, which could result in potentially fatal infections of the lungs.

Craig Mather from Bolton, a father of three, has experienced this problem first-hand. He dried his washing in his bedroom for years and considered it a normal event. However, he contracted TB during 1997 and the disease weakened his lungs, but the weakness was exacerbated by the problems which resulted from childhood asthma.

He said he only started recovering once his consultant diagnosed his condition as chronic pulmonary aspergillosis and he was prescribed special drugs to fight the fungal infection. He noticed night sweats and coughing fits which happened mostly when he had wet washing drying on the warm radiator in his bedroom.

Since being informed about the risks of drying his washing indoors, he has refrained from doing so and has noticed a massive improvement in his health. He is still unable to do strenuous physical activity, but is no longer taking the drugs and only requires a clinical check-up once every four months. He is able to ride his bike again, which he was unable to do previously.

The warning about drying wet washing comes from Professor David Denning and his team at the National Aspergillosis Centre, Manchester, after they have had to treat a growing number of patients who developed the condition after the inhalation of the Aspergillus fungal spores.

Dr Denning is a Professor of Infectious Disease in Global Health at Manchester University. He said that it is estimated that almost 87% of people dry their clothes indoors during winter. He added that one load of wet washing contains around two litres of water and this is released into the room.

He said that most people either have a healthy system which is able to fight the infection, or are immune to the fungus which grows in this type of humid conditions. However, in asthma sufferers it could produce wheezing and coughing, and in those with damaged or weak immune systems, including cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy, people with an auto-immune disease and Aids patients, this fungus could cause pulmonary aspergillosis. This is a condition which is able to cause irreparable and potentially fatal damage to the sinuses and lungs.

The advice he offers is to dry wet washing outside or in a tumble dryer. If you have no choice but to dry it indoors, do so in a well ventilated space away from the living and bedroom areas. It is better to be safe than sorry, he said.

Image Credit: RaSeLaSeD – Il Pinguino

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