Rhinosinusitis and mold as risk factors for asthma symptoms in occupants of a water-damaged building

Indoor Air. 2012 Oct;22(5):396-404. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2012.00775.x. Epub 2012 Mar 21.


Mold exposure in damp buildings is associated with both nasal symptoms and asthma development, but the progression of building-related (BR) rhinosinusitis symptoms to asthma is unstudied. We examined the risk of developing BR-asthma symptoms in relation to prior BR-rhinosinusitis symptoms and microbial exposure among occupants of a damp building. We conducted four cross-sectional health and environmental surveys among occupants of a 20-story water-damaged office building. We defined BR-rhinosinusitis symptom (N=131) and comparison (N=361) groups from participants' first questionnaire responses. We compared the odds for the development of BR-asthma symptoms between these two groups over the subsequent surveys, using logistic regression models adjusted for demographics, smoking, building tenure, and first-survey exposures to fungi, endotoxin, and ergosterol. The BR-rhinosinusitis symptom group had higher odds for developing BR-asthma symptoms [odds ratio (OR)=2.2; 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.3-3.6] in any subsequent survey compared to those without BR-rhinosinusitis symptoms. The BR-rhinosinusitis symptom group with higher fungal exposure within the building had an OR of 7.4 (95% CI=2.8-19.9) for developing BR-asthma symptoms, compared to the lower fungal exposure group without BR-rhinosinusitis symptoms. Our findings suggest that rhinosinusitis associated with occupancy of water-damaged buildings may be a sentinel for increased risk for asthma onset in such buildings.

Practical implications: Exposure to mold is associated with the development of asthma in damp building occupants, and rhinitis is known to be a risk factor for asthma. However, there is little information about the degree of risk for the progression of rhinosinusitis to asthma owing to mold exposures in damp buildings. Our study of damp building occupants demonstrates that building-related (BR) rhinosinusitis symptoms were a risk factor for the development of BR asthma symptoms and that exposure to mold (fungi) or other dampness-related agents augments risk for the development of BR asthma symptoms among those with BR rhinosinusitis symptoms. Our findings suggest that occurrence of BR upper respiratory illness in water-damaged buildings may presage future endemic asthma.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / microbiology
  • Construction Materials / microbiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fungi / growth & development*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sinusitis / complications*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Water


  • Water