Background: The purpose of this study was to assess the occurrence of immunoglobulin E sensitization to common environmental allergens (atopy) and new allergic diseases among schoolchildren after starting school in a water-damaged school building. The staff and pupils of a Finnish elementary school with visible water damage and mold complained of respiratory and skin symptoms. The school building was examined and widespread moisture damage was found. A control school with no visible water damage was also examined. No indication of exceptional microbial growth was found in the samples taken from this school.
Methods: History of allergic diseases and the year of diagnosis were established by a questionnaire. IgE antibodies to the common environmental allergens were determined from randomly selcted groups from both schools.
Results: Elevated IgE values were significantly more common among the exposed children, as was the occurrence of new allergic diseases after the children started at the school.
Conclusions: The odds ratios for the IgE values of the study groups indicated a possible relationship between exposure to microorganisms and IgE sensitization. Exposure to spores, toxins, and other metabolites of molds may have complex results with unknown immunogenic effects that may act as a nonspecific trigger for allergic sensitization leading to the development of atopy.