Health Hazards of Poor Housing and Ventilation

Health Hazards of Poor Housing and Ventilation;- Numerous illnesses, such as respiratory infections, asthma, lead poisoning, injuries, and mental health issues are linked to poor housing conditions. Public health professionals have a chance to address a significant socioeconomic determinant of health by addressing housing concerns.

Poor Housing and Ventilation
Poor Housing and Ventilation

Health Hazards of Poor Housing and Ventilation

Housing conditions play a crucial role in the control of many diseases, especially in the transmission of communicable diseases

House can both protect and facilitate diseases

Definition of terms

  • House – The usual dwelling place of the family
  • Housing– The enclosed and adjoining open space and all structural components making up those spaces
  • Healthful housing– Housing which permits individuals of all ages to conduct usual household activities without putting excessive burden upon any organ of the body

Basic requirements for a house

  • Adequately shelters people from heat, cold, damp, animals, insects and invaders
  • Able to be kept in good repair
  • Adequate elevation, ventilation and water supply
  • Adequate size and spacing for occupant(s)
  • Good drainage
  • Space for preparation, cooking and storage of food
  • Room for fuel storage
  • Adequate means to dispose of refuse and human waste
  • Proximity to roads, neighbours and other centres of population
  • Good natural and artificial lighting

Health hazards of poor housing

  1. A combination of dampness, lack of light, poor ventilation and overcrowding will contribute to the spread of airborne droplet infection
  2. A dirt floor and walls and unscreened windows permit the entry and breeding of flies, bedbugs and mosquitoes which contributes to the spread of vector-borne diseases
  3. Cooking fires placed on the floor are hazardous to small children
  4. A range of social problems may be associated with poor housing and living conditions including depression and alcohol abuse
  5. Excessive noise and overcrowding has an influence on mental disorders
  6. Crowded, cramped housing conditions facilitate the spread of airborne (communicable) infections such as measles and tuberculosis
  7. The use of dirty household fuels for cooking and heating can cause respiratory problems
  8. Dirty water and poor sanitation are associated with numerous illnesses.

Types of Ventilation

Definition of Ventilation

  • The process of removing polluted, stale, moisture laden, indoor air and replacing it with fresh outdoor (often dryer) air

Types of Ventilation

  • Natural ventilation – Natural movement of air entering and leaving openings such as windows, doors, and roof ventilators as well as through cracks and crevices of buildings

Types of natural ventilation

  • Through ventilation – Windows placed on opposite sides of house,  air enters in one window and leaves through the other window

Cross ventilation – One  window is provided and the other window is provided adjacent, air enters and leaves through the adjacent window

  • Back to back ventilation – Window is placed only on one side of the wall, Air enters and leaves in the same window. This type of ventilation is not recommended in public health
  • Mechanical ventilation– The movement of air by mechanical means
  • Wall fan and air conditioning  units are examples of mechanical ventilation

Importance of Good Ventilation

  • Good ventilation provides enough air (oxygen) required for normal physiological function in the body
  • Proper ventilation prevents air pollutants from affecting the health of an individual
  • Good ventilation helps in removing unwanted smells, such as from cooking or pets
  • Ventilation controls how much moisture is lingering in a house, and helps a house stay dry
  • Moisture can cause mold to build up; which in turn can cause various diseases

Key Points

  • Poor  housing contribute to diseases in humans
  • There are two major types of ventilations; natural and mechanical
  • Proper ventilation is important for good health


  • Nyamwaya, D. (1994): A Guide to Health Promotion through Water and Sanitation, Nairobi: AMREF
  • Salvato, J.A. (1982). Environmental Engineering and Sanitation (3rded). New
  • York: John Wiley and Sons
  • Wood C. H., Vaughan JP., & de Glanville H. (1997). Community Health (2nded). Nairobi: AMREF