Effects of damp and mould in the home on respiratory health: a review of the literature

Allergy. 1998 Feb;53(2):120-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.1998.tb03859.x.


This review examines whether there is a direct or indirect relation between damp or mould in the home and respiratory health. Home dampness is thought to have health consequences because it has the potential to increase the proliferation of house-dust mites and moulds, both of which are allergenic. The results from the many studies conducted to investigate whether damp and mould are associated with health outcomes are difficult to compare because the methods of measuring exposures and health outcomes have not been standardized. However, the studies that have been conducted in children are probably the most reliable because the confounding effects of active smoking or occupational exposures are absent, and because the presence of symptoms of cough and wheeze have been consistently investigated in many studies. The increased risk of children having these symptoms if the home has damp or mould is fairly small with an odds ratio that is generally in the range 1.5-3.5, these estimates being statistically significant when the sample size has been large enough. This range is consistent with the measured effects of other environmental exposures which are considered important to health, such as environmental tobacco smoke or outdoor air pollutants. The potential benefits of reducing mould in the home have not been investigated, and the few studies that have investigated health improvements as a result of increasing ventilation or reducing damp in order to reduce house-dust mite levels suggest that this intervention is expensive, requires a large commitment, and is unlikely to be successful in the long term. This implies that houses need to be specifically designed for primary prevention of respiratory problems associated with indoor allergen proliferation rather than using post hoc procedures to improve indoor climate and reduce allergen load as a secondary or tertiary preventive strategy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dust
  • Fungi*
  • Health Status*
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Humidity*
  • Mites / physiology
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*


  • Dust