Truth About Mold



The research is clear.  Mold and indoor contaminants can cause serious health problems.

The following information provides some of the statistics.

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 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 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 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 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 2011 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. EPA

Benefits and Costs of Improved IEQ in U.S. Offices

"The estimated benefits of the scenarios analyzed are substantial in magnitude, including increased work performance, reduced Sick Building Syndrome symptoms, reduced absence, and improved thermal comfort for millions of office workers.  The combined potential annual economic benefit of a set of overlapping scenarios is approximately $20 billion."

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.
Truth About Mold -- Statistics
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 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 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 2009 World Health Organization report

“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 Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Special Legislative Commission in Indoor Air Pollution

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

"The indoor air we breathe often contains pollutants which may have health effects ranging from annoying to

"Biological contamination of indoor environments ranks third in NIOSH's list of indoor air health threats after poor ventilation and building fabric contaminants."

From a 2010 World Health Organization report

"The 2005 global update of the air quality guidelines drew attention to the large impact on health of indoor air pollution in developing countries. The high concentration of particulates and gases found indoors in houses using solid fuel, including biomass, were noted and it was estimated that exposure might be responsible for nearly 1.6 million excess deaths annually and about 3% of the global Introduction burden of disease. This is a huge impact on health; indeed, far larger than that imposed by exposure to outdoor air pollutants."

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

Biological Pollutants in Your Home

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 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 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 1999 study by the Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic Study Implicates Fungus as Cause of Chronis Sinusitis

“An estimated 37 million people in the United States suffer from chronic sinusitis, an inflammation of the membranes of the nose and sinus cavity.”

“Mayo Clinic researchers say they have found the cause of most chronic sinus infections -- an immune system response to fungus. They say this discovery opens the door to the first effective treatment for this problem, the most common chronic disease in the United States.”

From a 2007 study conducted in Finland

Finnish Study Links Child Asthma with Structural Dampness in Buildings

“At least one in ten, and possibly as many as one in five, cases of asthma among children are linked with water damage in the building.”

“It has been estimated that between 84 to 95 per cent of fungus spores and 27 to 46 per cent of fragments can end up in the lungs, and it is believed that the fragments can get into the lower respiratory tracts of small children more easily than that of others.”

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 May 2011 study by Leonardo Trasande of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Yinghua Liu of National Children’s Study New York-Northern New Jersey Center

Environmental Illness in Children Costs $76.6 Billion Annually

Trasande and Liu focused on the cost of lead poisoning, childhood cancer and chronic conditions, including asthma, intellectual disability, autism and attention deficit disorders — conditions that are linked to environmental toxins and pollutants in the air, food, water, and soil, as well as in homes and neighborhoods. “Left unchecked, these preventable environmental factors will continue to harm the health of our children and push up health care costs,” Trasande said. “By updating environmental regulations and laws aimed at protecting the public’s health, we can reduce the toll taken by such factors on children’s health and the economy.”

From a November 2012 alert from 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."
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