Damp, Moldy Homes Are Associated with Sinus Problems and Bronchitis

Damp, Moldy Homes Tied to Respiratory Symptoms

Background: Many individuals believe that exposure to mold in their apartment or house contributes to breathing complaints, including cough, shortness of breath, and chronic bronchitis. Although dampness at home has been associated with respiratory conditions in children, there is little information about damp, moldy homes and chronic respiratory symptoms in adults.
Evidence of damp, moldy homes

Mold on wall behind couch

Study: Dr. Caroline Pind and colleagues at Uppsala University sent questionnaires to residents of four cities in Sweden about respiratory symptoms, smoking, education, and environmental exposures. The questionnaire identified dampness by asking about visible water damage, floor dampness, or visible mold in the home during the last 12 months. The study results were published on-line on July 11, 2017, in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy (DOI:10.1111/cea.12976).
Evidence of damp, moldy homes

Black mold on ceiling due to leaky roof

Results: Over 26,000 adults living in Sweden answered the questionnaire. Overall, 11% reported signs of dampness. Dampness was more common in humid or mild climates compared with areas of the country with longer, colder winters. Compared with non-smokers with no signs of any dampness, 90% of non- smokers with any dampness in their home were more likely to have nighttime shortness of breath, while 67% were more likely to have chronic bronchitis. There were higher rates of wheezing, nighttime coughing, and asthma in the group with signs of dampness at home. Conclusions: The study showed an association between dampness at home and chronic respiratory symptoms in adults. The authors suggested that these findings support reducing indoor dampness. Dr. Jouni Jaakkola of the University of Oulu in Finalnd commented that, “I found it interesting and alarming that the adverse effects were stronger among people of low socioeconomic status due to limited possibilities for moving to a better home or making needed renovations.” My Comments: This study points out the ill health effects of exposure to mold where you live. It is important to locate moisture problems, removing molds, and controlling excessive water and condensation at home. Leaky pipes and roofs are often the problem. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has information on controlling mold on-line: EPA.gov(bit.ly/29fx)4Y) as does the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on CDC.gov (bit.ly/2lxArWu).

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.