In 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a new report.
Preventing Occupational Respiratory Disease from Exposures Caused by Dampness in Office Buildings, Schools, and Other Nonindustrial Buildings
Office buildings, schools, and other nonindustrial buildings may develop moisture and dampness problems from roof and window leaks, high indoor humidity, and flooding events, among other things. For this Alert, we define “dampness” as the presence of unwanted and excessive moisture in buildings [AIHA 2008]. This can lead to the growth of mold, fungi, and bacteria; the release of volatile organic compounds; and the breakdown of building materials.
Research studies have shown that dampness-related exposures from building dampness and mold have been associated with respiratory symptoms, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, rhinosinusitis, bronchitis, and respiratory infections in research studies. Individuals with asthma or hypersensitivity pneumonitis may be at risk for progression to more severe disease if the relationship between illness and exposure to the damp building is not recognized and exposures continue.
Building dampness and subsequent respiratory illness in some building occupants (including children) occur in part from a lack of knowledge and understanding of the nature and severity of these problems among designers, builders, building owners, employers, and building occupants.
Building dampness problems frequently occur because of suboptimal design, construction, and commissioning (assessing the building’s construction and operation prior to occupancy) of new buildings. These problems and associated health effects can be prevented by making dampness prevention a goal during the design, construction, and commissioning phases.
Once built, buildings may also develop dampness problems from improper or insufficient maintenance or operation and weather events.
For additional information, read these two additional, important research papers on schools, mold and asthma:
Simoni M, et al (2010) School air quality related to dry cough, rhinitis and nasal patency in children. European Respiratory Journal 35:742–749. Read the paper. Simoni M, et al (2011) Total viable molds and fungal DNA in classrooms and association with respiratory health and pulmonary function of European school children. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology 22:843–852. Read the abstract.