Respiratory Allergies

EPA finds that mold has enormous health and social costs worldwide

In a recent EPA report, “Respiratory and Allergic Health Effects of Dampness, Mold, and Dampness-Related Agents: A Review of the Epidemiologic Evidence published in the Environmental Health Perspectives” (June, 2011), the authors concluded that:

Based on the material reviewed here, there is sufficient evidence of an association between indoor dampness-related factors and a wide range of respiratory or allergic health effects (Table 3), including asthma development, asthma exacerbation, current asthma, ever asthma, dyspnea, wheeze, cough, respiratory infections, bronchitis, allergic rhinitis, eczema, and upper respiratory tract symptoms. There is suggestive evidence of associations with health effects for several non-culture-based measurements related to fungi and bacteria in dust, although some of these associations seem equivocal. No evidence suggests protective effects of evident dampness and mold. Mechanisms seem likely to be both allergic and nonallergic. Available quantitative meta-analyses have estimated consistently and significantly increased risks for multiple outcomes associated with dampness or mold, including OR ranges of 1.30–1.75.

In the above study’s “Conclusion” they cite several of the analyzed “eligible peer-reviewed epidemiologic studies or quantitative meta-analyses, up to late 2009, on dampness, mold, or other microbiologic agents and respiratory or allergic effects” and concluded that:

Substantial increases in a number of important respiratory health outcomes, including a 50% increase in current asthma, are associated with dampness-related risk factors in residences (Fisk et al. 2007). These estimates, based on limited data, broad lumping of diverse risk factors, and multiple unverified assumptions, should be interpreted cautiously; however, they indicate that dampness-related risk factors may contribute substantially, but preventably, to the burden of respiratory disease.

Based on available evidence, dampness and mold may have enormous health and social costs worldwide. A northern European study “Prevalence and incidence of respiratory symptoms in relation to indoor dampness: the RHINE study” found an 18% prevalence of indoor dampness. (Gunnbjornsdottir, et al. 2006). The IOM review (IOM 2004), using European and North American data, estimated that at least 20% of buildings had problems with dampness.

In “Public health and economic impact of dampness and mold,” D.Mudarri and William J. Fisk (2007) estimated a 50% prevalence of dampness or fungi in U.S. houses and concluded that “building dampness and mold are associated with approximately 30–50% increases in a variety of respiratory and asthma-related health outcomes.” Mudarri and Fisk (2007) estimated that 21% of current U.S. asthma cases were potentially attributable to dampness and mold in housing, for an annual national cost of $3.5 billion.

“PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS: There is a need to control moisture in both new and existing construction because of the significant health consequences that can result from dampness and mold. This paper demonstrates that dampness and mold in buildings is a significant public health problem with substantial economic impact.”

In 2010, William J. Fisk, et al estimated in their “Association of Residential Dampness and Mold with Respiratory Tract Infections and Bronchitis: a Meta-Analysis, that residential dampness or mold is associated with 8–20% of U.S. respiratory infections.

BACKGROUND: Dampness and mold have been shown in qualitative reviews to be associated with a variety of adverse respiratory health effects, including respiratory tract infections. Several published meta-analyses have provided quantitative summaries for some of these associations, but not for respiratory infections. Demonstrating a causal relationship between dampness-related agents, which are preventable exposures, and respiratory tract infections would suggest important new public health strategies. We report the results of quantitative meta-analyses of published studies that examined the association of dampness or mold in homes with respiratory infections and bronchitis.


Residential dampness and mold are associated with substantial and statistically significant increases in both respiratory infections and bronchitis. If these associations were confirmed as causal, effective control of dampness and mold in buildings would prevent a substantial proportion of respiratory infections.

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