Leading expert: failing antibiotics calls for new measures


Antibiotic resistance is becoming a scary reality and we will have to do more to stop infection from spreading. In a recently published review, Dr Richard Hobday says that creating a healthier indoor climate with daylight and fresh air in our buildings is crucial to this.

Drug-resistant bacteria and hard-to-combat pathogens pose an increasing threat to public health. According to the World Health Organisation, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era in which many common infections will no longer have a cure.

This is explained in a review published in the internationally renowned Journal of Hospital Infection by the author of The Healing Sun: Sunlight and Health in the 21st Century, Dr Richard Hobday. He says we need to do more to stop infection from spreading – and an effective way of doing this is to improve the indoor climate in our buildings.

Daylight and fresh air kill germs
30 per cent of buildings today do not provide a healthy indoor climate, and many of the infectious diseases endangering public health are diseases of the indoor environment. This is alarming because we spend around 90 per cent of our time indoors.

"Before antibiotics were developed, high levels of ventilation and natural light were important ways of preventing the spread of infections in buildings. Nowadays, there is less emphasis on fresh air and daylight. Codes and regulations tend to promote highly-insulated, sealed buildings that may perform better in energy terms than older designs, but excluding sunlight and fresh air encourages the spread of infections," explains Richard Hobday. He concludes, "In the future, we will have to increase the focus on creating and maintaining a healthy climate in the buildings in which we spend most of our lives. And we will need a much better understanding of how to do this than we have at the moment."

Regulations need to be tightened
Richard Hobday is not alone in raising concerns. The VELUX Group, the roof window manufacturer, has also been observing how the indoor climate in buildings has developed over the last decades – with growing concern.

"The lack of emphasis on creating healthy indoor conditions is a major problem. We are heading down a very unhealthy path when it comes to our future building stock. One of the ways to raise awareness is to make the requirements for fresh air, sunlight and daylight exposure in our building regulations more stringent. At the moment, they are inadequate," explains Per Arnold Andersen, head of the VELUX Group's Knowledge Centre for Daylight, Energy and Indoor Climate.

About the review
The review Roles of Sunlight and Natural Ventilation for Controlling Infection: Historical and Current Perspectives was published in the Journal of Hospital Infection in August 2013. It is based on the technical report The Influence of Sunlight and Ventilation on Indoor Health: Building for the Post-Antibiotic Era, which the VELUX Group commissioned from Dr Hobday in 2011.

A poor indoor climate with too little daylight and fresh air is associated with a number of consequences that affect our health and well-being:

• The risk of damp-related illnesses such as asthma, allergy, coughs and wheezing
• The risk of Sick Building Syndrome causing physical illnesses
• The risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder causing depression-related symptoms
• A decrease in mental health and performance
• A reduced ability to learn
• A lower rate of productivity.
[VELUX Daylight, Energy and Indoor Climate Basic Book, 2nd edition June 2010]

1. Hobday RA, Dancer SJ. Roles of Sunlight and Natural Ventilation for Controlling Infection: Historical and Current Perspectives. Journal of Hospital Infection 2013;84:271-282.
2. Hobday RA. The Influence of Sunlight and Ventilation on Indoor Health: Building for the Post-Antibiotic Era. VELUX Group, Copenhagen, 2012.