A SCOTS woman who claims damp conditions in her home gave her son asthma is taking her landlord to court in the first case of its kind in the UK.

Four more cases where residents are claiming conditions in their homes set off the life-threatening illness are under investigation.

Solicitors have warned that a successful case could lead to an avalanche of claims for tens of thousands of pounds in compensation from sufferers.

Scotland has the highest rates of asthma in the world, according to a global study, and Shelter Scotland, the housing charity, has reported that it also has some of the worst housing conditions in Europe.

A Global Initiative for Asthma study released today shows that 18.4% of Scots are, or have been, asthma sufferers.

There are 175,000 children living in cold, damp homes, according to the Scottish House Conditions Survey.

Linda MacKenzie, from Ibrox in Glasgow, has obtained legal aid to take Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Housing Association to court, claiming damp conditions in her flat triggered her son Richard's asthma.

It is alleged the seven-year-old boy's exposure to high levels of the faeces of house dust mites, which like warm, damp conditions, caused his condition.

Dr Stirling Howieson, an architect and engineer at Strathclyde University with a special interest in housing and health, has tested Ms MacKenzie's flat for a protein in dust mite faeces associated with risk of asthma.

In his report, he said the levels of this protein were the highest he had seen in six years. He said: ''The conditions in the dwelling which have prevailed during his lifetime have sensitised him to house dust mite allergens. This allergic response will remain with him for the rest of his life.''

Ms MacKenzie is suing the council, as her previous landlord, and GHA as her current landlord, for (pounds) 50,000 based on a landlord's statutory duty of care under the Occupiers' Liability Scotland Act 1960.

Previous court cases have led to relatively small payouts for housing conditions that could exacerbate asthma, but if causality is found it is hoped this case will set a precedent and force social landlords to address poor living conditions.

Mike Dailly, principal solicitor at Govan Law Centre, who is taking forward the case, said: ''What we hope to do is to show that damp living conditions can cause asthma in a child. That has never been done before, and if we are able to make that causal connection then the value of claims in terms of liability are going to shoot up.''

Adrian Stalker, principal solicitor for the Scottish Housing Law Service at Shelter Scotland, confirmed it was investigating four similar cases.

Rachel Cackett, campaigns officer for Shelter Scotland, said: ''Scotland has got some of the worst housing conditions in Europe. There is strong evidence that living in poor conditions greatly increases the risk of any bronchitic disease, including asthma. We have the worst asthma rating among 13 and 14-year-olds in the world.''

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: ''I can confirm there is still a case involving Ms MacKenzie and the council.''

John Theobald, public relations manager for Glasgow Housing Association, said it was waiting for further reports and could not comment on an ongoing legal case.

He said an earlier case brought by Ms MacKenzie had been settled out of court and the GHA was subsequently absolved of any liability.