Indoor dampness and mold are associated with an increased onset of asthma, rhinitis, and respiratory symptoms, as well as with decreased remission, according to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal. These findings underscore the need to reduce indoor dampness and mold.

This study included 11,506 participants (54.3% women; 26.4% ex-smokers and26.3% current smokers) from Estonia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. The associations between respiratory health and home/work mold, mold odor, and dampness were examined. A baseline questionnaire was used to ascertain information on respiratory health and workplace and home environments. Associations between respiratory symptoms and indicators of dampness were investigated using 2-level logistic regression models.

Associations were identified between respiratory symptoms/asthma and mold, mold odor, floor dampness, and water damage, with odds ratios ranging from 1.23 to 2.24. The most common environmental factors reported at baseline were water damage (13.4%) and visible mold (6.7%). During the follow-up, 25.2% of participants reported dampness at home. Dampness at home correlated with respiratory symptom onset, including asthma and rhinitis, with odds ratios ranging from 1.21 to 1.52.

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Dampness at work also demonstrated associations with asthma and rhinitis, with odds ratios between 1.31 and 1.50. The combination of work and home dampness increased the risk for rhinitis and respiratory symptoms while being exposed to both mold and dampness at home and at work were associated with lower rates of remission in individuals with rhinitis and respiratory symptoms.

Limitations of this study included a lack of information on family history of respiratory diseases or allergies.

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The researchers concluded that “[d]ampness and mold at home and in the workplace building can be risk factors for onset of respiratory symptoms, doctor diagnosed asthma and rhinitis.”


Wang J, Pindus M, Janson C, et al. Dampness, mould, onset and remission of adult respiratory symptoms, asthma and rhinitis [published online March 17, 2019]. Eur Respir J. doi:10.1183/13993003.01921-2018