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Indoor and outdoor environmental assessment of Durban block hostels : an internal evaluations on exposure measures and outcomes of self supported health and well-being in hostels.

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Hostel dwellers form a larger part of the urban population in South Africa (Ramphele, 1999). These hostels were initially created as temporal arrangement for African men moving from rural to urban areas seeking for employment. Due to housing shortage in urban areas they eventually became permanent residential accommodation. However, observations into the environmental conditions in these hostels have raised concerns about the health and well being of residents and neighbouring communities. The area of study was selected on the basis of the current depleted living conditions due to mismanagement of facilities provided by both the occupants and the hostel administrators. The study was a cross sectional descriptive study involving all three Durban Metropolitan block hostels. Assessing (i) the quality of block hostel environment (indoor and outdoor) through visual inspection (walkthrough), (ii) the exposure measures and outcomes (biophysical environment assessment) by means of questionnaire survey, air testing and microbial identification. Sixty three (63) hostel inventory were completed, followed by the administration of 450 questionnaires, and 646 surface and air samples were collected in the indoors of the selected hostel blocks including the control outdoor samples. The demographic profile of the hostel dwellers in the selected hostel blocks revealed that in the five bed type dormitories the habitable space per individual was 3 m 2 to 3.8 m2. Whilst in the ten bed type dormitories the habitable space per individual was 3.3 m 2 to 3.6 m2 . This was not even close to the World Health Organization suggested habitable space of 12 m2 (WHO, 2000) and was therefore regarded as overcrowding. Lack of access control in the hostels exacerbated by the socio-economic demands of the living environments, e.g. unemployment, was to blame for overcrowding. This overcrowding of the hostels was overloading the services, causing enormous number of blockages and bursts of wastewater pipes resulting in the system not functioning. This situation resulted in the accumulation of dampness in the indoor environment, and hence creating conditions favouring the growth of indoor mouldiness in the buildings. This was further supported by evidence that 47% of the occupants in the selected hostel blocks were experiencing respiratory symptoms and 53% experiencing non-respiratory symptoms. The most recorded respiratory symptoms were pulmonary tuberculosis (14.3%), chest tightness (12.2%), sore and dry throat (7%), sinus congestion (7%) symptoms. Whilst the most recorded non-respiratory symptoms were headache (11.5%), dry and itchy skin (11.5%), stomach upset (6.3%) and fatigue (3.6%). Forty five percent (45%) of the respondents were current smokers and 80% of them had a tendency of smoking indoors. The results of the surface and air samples indicated that the level of indoor mould growth in the selected hostel blocks was at 37, 24%. Surface moulds were at 58% and airborne spores were at 42%. Statistical analysis of data revealed a significant relationship between exposure factors and outcomes in the 5, 10 and 15-bed type dormitories. Incidence Risk Rate (IRR) and the p-value (p . 0.01) were used to determine relationships between exposure factors and outcomes. Certain factors were very much supportive in the development of selfreported symptoms in the selected hostel blocks of the three hostels under certain circumstances and these were the hygiene state of the building, leaking pipes, smoking habits and total mea and dg surface moulds. At all levels of the analysis the hygiene state of the building was very much supportive in the development of self-reported symptoms. Other exposure factors were not supportive at all, for example, structural defects, bed-types, different floor levels and participants' perception of overcrowding. A review process of the role of legislation in controlling the adverse health effects revealed that certain aspects of the legislation relating to building standards requirements, sanitation requirements, ventilation requirements, space and density requirements, and air quality standards requirements were violated. Therefore, the findings of the study recommended that a proper management plan must be developed to enhance living standards. This plan shall include a routine maintenance of the building structures, the development of a culture of self-care, as well as access control in the hostels. In addition to that where there are signs of visible moulds on walls and ceilings adequate control measures are highly recommended using commercially available measures in order to provide a healthy living environment. In conclusion is the adoption of a compliance policy towards legal requirements pertaining to building standards as defined in the National Building Regulations Standards Act (Act 103 of 1977). This study has showed that necessary iii steps need to be taken in South Africa in order to combat this problem. Further research need to be taken in order the inhabitable buildings to be better living environment improving the existing building structures.


Thesis (MMed.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2007.


Environmental health., Health risk assessment--Environmental aspects., Housing and health., Dampness in buildings., Theses--Occupational and environmental health.