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Global Indoor Health Network 


Global Indoor Health Network - Statistics regarding indoor air pollution
The research is clear.  Indoor air contaminants can cause serious health problems.

The statistics relating to the health effects of indoor air contaminants and the impact on our global economy are tremendous.  It is staggering to comprehend the enormous impact on our global society as literally millions of individuals and families are harmed by contaminants inside our homes, schools and workplaces. 

The financial costs are equally staggering with estimates in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

We have numerous research papers, reports by government agencies and other reports posted on our website.

Some of the key statistics are provided below. For additional details, read our paper on the Global Burden of Indoor Air Contaminants.

From the 2016 UNICEF report:

The sheer numbers of children affected (by indoor and outdoor pollution) are staggering. Based on satellite imagery, in the first analysis of its kind, this report shows that around the world today, 300 million children live in areas with extremely toxic levels of air pollution. Approximately 2 billion children live in areas where pollution levels exceed the minimum air quality standards set by the World Health Organization. These data don’t account for the millions of children exposed to air pollution inside the home.

The impact is commensurately shocking. Every year, nearly 600,000 children under the age of five die from diseases caused or exacerbated by the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution. Millions more suffer from respiratory diseases that diminish their resilience and affect their physical and cognitive development.

Together, outdoor and indoor air pollution are directly linked with pneumonia and other respiratory diseases that account for almost one in 10 under-five deaths, making air pollution one of the leading dangers to children’s health.

From a 2016 report on the economic costs of certain health issues caused by exposure to indoor dampness and mold in the U.S.:

This researcher estimated the costs of allergic rhinitis, acute bronchitis and asthma caused by exposure to indoor dampness and mold in the U.S.40 He used two methods—cost of illness (COI) and willingness to pay (WTP). 

WTP measures the full cost to society, but WTP estimates are difficult to compute and rarely available. COI methods are more often used but less likely to reflect full costs.

Based on the data available, he estimates the total annual costs as follows:

Allergic Rhinitis $3.7 billion
Acute Bronchitis $1.9 billion
Asthma Morbidity $15.1 billion
Asthma Mortality $1.7 billion

From a 2016 World Health Organization report:

The report states that “92% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits.”

Some 3 million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution can be just as deadly. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6% of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together. [Note from GIHN: The 11.6% statistic relates to only five types of pollutants.]

From a November 12, 2016, article about the effects of indoor and outdoor pollution in India:

Studies across the world and also in India prove that outdoor and indoor air pollution is a serious environmental risk factor that causes or aggravates acute and chronic diseases and has been identified as the fifth highest cause of morbidity in India.

Four kids could be dying every hour in UP (Uttar Pradesh ) of pneumonia caused by respirable suspended particulate matter (PM) 1, 2.5 and 10, which form a large part of the air we breathe. Alarmingly, the number adds up to 104 deaths per day and 38,000 a year.

From a 2015 report from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in India:

Air pollution is responsible for 10,000-30,000 deaths in Delhi annually and is the fifth largest cause of death in the country.

Outdoor air pollution kills 620,000 people, and indoor air pollution kills 1.5 million people in India annually.

From a 2015 World Health Organization report:

This study estimated the cost of indoor and outdoor pollution of 53 countries in the European Region at $1.6 trillion. This is nearly 1/10 of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the entire European Union.

From a 2015 report by the United Kingdom: National Institute for Health and Welfare:

This report highlights the impact of indoor pollutants on disease and life expectancy. The study concludes that indoor air pollution is potentially responsible for the annual loss of over 200,000 healthy life years in the U.K.

In a recent Pan-European study, they estimate that exposure to indoor pollutants is linked to reduced life expectancy and burden of disease (57% of the total burden relates to cardiovascular diseases, 23% to lung cancer, 12% to asthma and the remaining 8% is in association with other respiratory conditions).

From a 2012 report from Finland:

The estimated cost of health problems associated with mould and damp is 450 million euros each year. If you add the cost of repairing the problem, the total reaches 1.4 billion euros.

The recent publication of the Audit Committee of the Finnish Parliament indicated that approximately 7–9% of terraced houses; 6–9% of apartment buildings; 12–18% of schools and kindergartens; 20–26% of nursing homes, hospitals, and outpatient departments; and 2.5–5% of offices have been significantly damaged with dampness and are infested with indoor molds.

It has been estimated that approximately 800,000 or every seventh Finnish citizen has been exposed to some extent and become sensitized to compounds present in poor quality indoor air. However, since there is no ICD-10 coding system for mold-related illness, its exact incidence is unknown. If one extrapolates from the above presented figures, one could argue that the incidence of mold-related illness may be much higher than the incidences for cardiovascular conditions, cancers, and accident-induced traumas.

From a March 25, 2014 press release by the World Health Organization (WHO):

7 Million Deaths Annually Linked to Air Pollution (Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollution)

In new estimates released (on March 25, 2014), WHO reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died - one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.

In particular, the new data reveal a stronger link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischaemic heart disease, as well as between air pollution and cancer. This is in addition to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.

From the 2011 World Health Organization report:

Environmental Burden of Disease Associated with Inadequate Housing

About 12% of new childhood asthma in Europe can be attributed to indoor mould exposure, which represents approximately 55 842 potentially avoidable DALYs (Disability-Adjusted Life Years) and 83 potentially avoidable deaths per year.

About 15% of new childhood asthma in Europe can be attributed to indoor dampness, which represents approximately 69 462 potentially avoidable DALYs and 103 potentially avoidable deaths per year.

Some 4.8 million (22%) of England’s 22 million dwellings were identified as having a Category 1 HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating System) hazard and thus by our definition deemed to be ‘unhealthy housing’.

The total cost of dealing with HHSRS Category 1 hazards in the English housing stock is some £17.6 billion.

Another paper from the United States shows that remediation of lead paint hazards in housing yields a net benefit of $67 billion (Nevin et al., 2008).

From a 2017 report about the costs relating to asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in Europe:

Today, one out of six Europeans – or the equivalent of Germany’s population – reports living in unhealthy buildings, i.e., buildings that have damp (leaking roof or damp floor, walls or foundation), a lack of daylight, inadequate heating during the winter or overheating problems. In some countries, that number is as high as one out of three.

The entire respiratory system becomes vulnerable when exposed to poor indoor air quality, which can provoke the onset of various respiratory illnesses and even raise the risk of developing non-respiratory diseases. In fact, people are 40% more likely to have asthma when living in a damp or mouldy home.

They estimated the annual cost of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at €82 billion ($93 billion).

From a January 27, 2010 article posted on Wire Service Canada:

B.C. Company Fights Back Against Sick Building Syndrome

In a survey of 100 U.S. office buildings, 23 percent of office workers experienced frequent symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) such as respiratory ailments, allergies and asthma. The impact has been usually hidden in sick days, lower productivity and medical cost, but the economic impact is enormous, with an estimated
decrease in productivity around 2 percent nationwide, resulting in an annual cost to the United States of approximately $60 billion.

William Fisk from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California established a baseline for quantifying benefits from improved IAQ and demonstrated the economic impacts of increased productivity. Findings are showing that improvement in IAQ can: Reduce SBS symptoms by 20 to 50 percent, with estimated savings of $10 to $100 billion; Reduce asthma by 8 to 25 percent, with estimated savings of $1 to $4 billion; Reduce other respiratory illnesses by 23 to 76 percent, with estimated savings of $6 to $14 billion; Improve office worker productivity by 0.5 to 5 percent, with estimated savings of $20 to $200 billion.

From a 2008 report from Canada about the environmental burden of disease:

Estimates of the environmental burden of disease focused on four major categories of disease (i.e., respiratory disease, cardiovascular illness, cancer and congenital affliction). They presented the following estimates:
  • 10,000-25,000 deaths
  • 78,000-194,000 hospitalizations
  • 600,000 to 1.5 million days spent in hospital
  • 1.1 to 1.8 million restricted activity days for asthma sufferers
  • 8,000-24,000 new cases of cancer
  • 500-2,500 low birth weight babies
Their estimates show that the burden of illness in Canada from environmental exposures is significant -- with an annual cost of $3.6 to $9.1 billion each year due to those four categories of disease.

From the Mold Resources page on the U.S. EPA website:

One third to one half of all structures have damp conditions that may encourage development of pollutants such as molds and bacteria, which can cause allergic reactions — including asthma — and spread infectious diseases.

From a 1994 report on PROPOSED rules by OSHA (standards addressing indoor air quality in indoor work environments). On December 17, 2011, OSHA withdrew this proposal. 

Based on the information submitted to the docket, OSHA assumed that 30 percent of the buildings have indoor air quality problems.

Based on OSHA's percentage of problem buildings (30 percent), OSHA assumed that 30 percent of employees working indoors are exposed to poor indoor air quality. Therefore, the number of employees potentially affected is 21 million.
From an August 17, 2016, article about the United Kingdom's National Clean Air Day:

Emeritus Professor Derek Clements-Croome of Reading University shared the results of a BESA 2016 survey that showed 70% of office workers were concerned with the impact of poor IAQ. The results of the survey also showed:
  • 68% of office workers experience lapses in concentration on a monthly or more frequent basis
  • Over two thirds (67%) of recipients
  • reported suffering from fatigue while at work on a monthly or more frequent basis
  • Over half (54%) of office workers surveyed experience decreased productivity on a monthly or more frequent basis
  • Over a third (41%) of people experience watery or irritated eyes when in the office on a monthly or more frequent basis
From a 2016 report by United Kingdom's Royal College of Physicians:

In this report, they discuss the impact of indoor air pollution and also mention new indoor air pollutants that need to be considered such as advanced materials and three-dimensional printing.

The multiplicity of contaminants can make it more problematic to determine the precise source of an exposure-triggered illness and more difficult for epidemiologists to quantify cases. However, the report estimates indoor air pollutants “cause, at a minimum, several thousands of deaths per year in the U.K., and associated with healthcare costs in the order of tens of millions of pounds.”

In the report, they estimate that 40,000 deaths per year are attributable to outdoor air pollution, with an annual cost of 20 billion pounds. And, they also include information about indoor air pollutants (including radon, tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, PCBs, VOCs, formaldehyde, asbestos, kitchen products, faulty boilers, open fires, fly sprays, air fresheners, biological materials, mould, etc.).

"When our patients are exposed to such a clear and avoidable cause of death, illness and disability, it is our duty as doctors to speak out."

From a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) in Africa:

The annual number of deaths from outdoor pollution rose 36% from 1990 to 2013. Deaths from indoor air pollution rose 18% during that same time period.

Dirty air has led to the premature deaths of 712,000 Africans each year, more than the toll of unsafe water, malnutrition and unsafe sanitation. In September last year, researchers calculated the monetary cost of air pollution in Africa for the first time: $215 billion from outdoor pollution and $232 billion from indoor pollution (based on 2013 figures). These cost estimates are based on the economic cost of premature deaths.

From a 2016 report by the World Health Organization (this is an update to their 2006 report on Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environments):

The report includes the following statistics for deaths attributable to the environment:
  • 26% of all deaths in children under age five
  • 24-26% of all deaths in adults age 50 to 75 (which includes the risk of falls)
  • 23% of total deaths worldwide
They point out in the paper that statistics are not available for deaths due to each of these specific causes, so the estimates are largely based on surveys of expert opinion.

Although these estimates reflect only a few select environmental causes (i.e., primarily climate change, fossil fuel consumption, safe water and sanitation) imagine how large the percentage might be if they include all environmental factors.

From a 2012 report on dampness and mold in European housing:

The percentage of homes in 31 European countries that are affected by damp, mold or water damage. This report concluded that 12.1% of homes had damp, 10.3% had mold and 10.0% had water damage, giving a result of 16.5% for a combination of these indicators.

Significant (up to 18%) differences were observed for dampness and mold prevalence estimates depending on survey factors, region, and climate. In conclusion, dampness and/or mold problems could be expected to occur in one of every six of the dwellings in Europe.

From a 2016 report on the financial impact of endocrine-disrupting chemicals:

They estimated the cost of healthcare and lost earnings due to illness caused by endocrine-disrupting chemicals at $340 billion in the U.S. and $217 billion in Europe, as follows:

The disease costs of EDCs (endocrine-disrupting chemicals) were much higher in the USA than in Europe ($340 billion [2·33% of GDP] vs $217 billion [1·28%]). The difference was driven mainly by intelligence quotient (IQ) points loss and intellectual disability due to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (11 million IQ points lost and 43 000 cases costing $266 billion in the USA vs 873 000 IQ points lost and 3290 cases costing $12·6 billion in the European Union). Accounting for probability of causation, in the European Union, organophosphate pesticides were the largest contributor to costs associated with EDC exposure ($121 billion), whereas in the USA costs due to pesticides were much lower ($42 billion).

From a report by the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission):

Most information about sources and health effects of biological pollutants is based on studies of large office buildings and two surveys of homes in northern U.S. and Canada. These surveys show that 30% to 50% of all structures have damp conditions which may encourage the growth and buildup of biological pollutants. This percentage is likely to be higher in warm, moist climates.

From the 2009 World Health Organization report:

Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mould

Indoor air pollution – such as from dampness and mould, chemicals and other biological agents – is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. About 1.5 million deaths each year are associated with the indoor combustion of solid fuels, the majority of which occur among women and children in low-income countries.

The prevalence of indoor dampness varies widely within and among countries, continents and climate zones. It is estimated to affect 10–50% of indoor environments in Europe, North America, Australia, India and Japan. In certain settings, such as river valleys and coastal areas, the conditions of dampness are substantially more
severe than the national averages for such conditions.

From a 1989 report by the Special Legislative Commission on Indoor Air Pollution, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

Indoor Air Pollution in Massachusetts

Indoor air pollution is a growing problem in the United States and accounts for up to 50% of all illnesses.

Indoor air pollution seriously threatens public health. Scientific testimony and information provided to the Commission shows that many diseases and symptoms are attributable to indoor air pollution: irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, fatigue, nausea, asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, lung cancer, heart disease, chemical sensitivity, liver and central nervous system damage and many other ailments. As a result, billions of dollars are spent annually on pollution abatement and health care costs resulting from indoor air pollution.

From a 2010 report by Berkeley Lab:

Health and Productivity Gains from Better Indoor Environments and Their Relationship with Building Energy Efficiency

For the United States, the estimated potential annual economic savings plus productivity gains, in 1996 dollars, are approximately $40 to $200 billion (if we would implement specific scenarios to improve indoor environmental quality in U.S. office buildings).

From a 2007 joint study conducted by the EPA and Berkeley National Laboratory:

Berkeley Lab, EPA Studies Confirm Large Public Health and Economic Impact of Dampness and Mold

Building dampness and mold raised the risk of a variety of respiratory and asthma-related health outcomes by 30 to 50 percent.

Of the 21.8 million people reported to have asthma in the U.S., approximately 4.6 million cases are estimated to be attributable to dampness and mold exposure in the home.

The national annual cost of asthma that is attributable to dampness and mold exposure in the home is $3.5 billion.

From a November 2012 Alert by NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health):

Preventing Occupational Respiratory Disease from Exposures Caused by Dampness in Office Buildings, Schools, and Other Nonindustrial Buildings

NIOSH has estimated that 29% to 33% of new-onset adult asthma is attributable to work-related exposures and 23% of existing adult asthma is exacerbated by work. If occupants develop asthma or asthma exacerbation while working in damp buildings, medical treatment may not be effective if the occupant continues to be exposed. An occupant in damp buildings with allergic asthma may experience symptoms after exposure to very low levels of a sensitizing agent that may still be present after remediation; in such cases, an occupant may require relocation to another area.

From a 2010 report by the World Health Organization on second-hand smoke:

Worldwide, 40% of children, 33% of male non-smokers, and 35% of female non-smokers were exposed to second-hand smoke in 2004. This exposure was estimated to have caused 379,000 deaths from ischaemic heart disease, 165,000 from lower respiratory infections, 36,900 from asthma, and 21,400 from lung cancer.

603,000 deaths were attributable to second-hand smoke in 2004, which was about 1.0% of worldwide mortality.

47% of deaths from second-hand smoke occurred in women, 28% in children, and 26% in men.

From a June 18, 2017, article about leaky buildings and hidden mould in New Zealand:

New Zealand's leaky buildings, which have been widely attributed to lax building regulations and sub-standard materials, include schools, prisons, and government buildings, as well as an estimated 100,000 New Zealand homes.

Experts agree that leaky homes are still being built in New Zealand, and the health costs from them could reach into the billions.

The full cost of the leaky building saga, sometimes estimated at $11 billion, was probably much higher than that – while the ongoing health costs were expected to be higher still.

From the CDC and the Be Tobacco Free organization:

Smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion each year, including:
  • Nearly $170 billion for direct medical care for adults
  • More than $156 billion in lost productivity, including $5.6 billion in lost productivity due to secondhand smoke exposure
More than 480,000 people in the United States die from tobacco use each year.

Smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns, and illegal drugs combined.

More than 20 million Americans have died because of smoking since 1964, including approximately 2.5 million deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke.

In 2014, tobacco companies spent more than $9 billion marketing cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in the United States.

During 2016, about 258 billion cigarettes were sold in the United States.

From the American Cancer Society:

More than $156 billion in lost productivity, including $5.6 billion in lost productivity due to secondhand smoke exposure.

Approximately 2.5 million deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke.
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