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Kenyan study links curtains and carpets to illness

How often do you change your curtains and air them? Have you ever wondered about the source of most allergic attacks at home?

A study by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) says unchanged carpets and curtains can cause respiratory diseases and allergy.

The study, presented during the 8th Kemri Annual Scientific and Health Conference last week in Nairobi, says environmental pollution caused by human activity and indoor pollution is a major health problem.


Dr Olga Mashendi, a researcher at Kemri and author of the study, said that when carpets are not aired for long, they accumulate fungal allergens that can trigger respiratory diseases and asthma.

“This becomes a serious health problem because the air we breathe at home is not clean. The curtains contain dust and fungi. Exposure to dampness or fungi is associated with development of asthma and increased morbidity,” said Dr Mashendi.

The study, titled “Variety of indoor fungi isolated from indoor environments in Busia County”, was conducted to determine the prevalence of fungal pollution. It also sought to establish allergens that are associated with fungal pathogens.

The study noted that both curtains and carpets should be changed on a weekly basis. “They contain dust that can cause various reactions to humans. For instance, PVC carpets are very dangerous,” said Dr Mashendi.

The study shows that exposure to fungus can cause a number of illnesses, including allergic bronchopulmonary mycoses (asthma), allergic fungal sinusitis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Chronic sinusitis is obstruction of the nasal cavity that causes difficulty in breathing. It also causes pain and swelling.


The cross-sectional study was carried out in 60 households in Busia County. Sedimentary and volumetric samples were collected from water, air, dust and home surfaces.

Questionnaires were also used to determine the risk factors associated with indoor fungi.

Fungal contamination at the homes was found to be at 79 per cent, mainly by a species associated with itchy eye allergies. There was a significant association between fungal moulds and respiratory conditions.

Dr Mashendi said: “Residential environments could be an effective target for interventions aimed at reducing fungi exposure to prevent upper respiratory allergies and infections in urban populations”.

Additional research is still needed to evaluate various interventions for fungal and dampness-related illnesses.