In recent years, there has been growing interest in the health effects of living, attending school, or working in damp buildings. Almost any type of building may develop moisture and dampness problems from roof, window and plumbing leaks, high indoor humidity, flooding events, and many other causes.
Building dampness problems frequently occur because of suboptimal design, construction, and commissioning of new buildings. These problems, and associated health effects, can be prevented by making dampness prevention a goal during the design, construction, and commissioning phases of a building.
Once constructed, buildings may also develop dampness problems from improper or insufficient maintenance or operational and weather events. This can lead to the growth of mold and bacteria; the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs); and the breakdown of building materials.
There are thousands of species of mold and many are commonly associated with dampness in indoor environments. Many different types of mold can adapt to various moisture conditions and begin to grow indoors when conditions are right.
Human exposure to building dampness and mold has been associated with respiratory symptoms, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, rhinosinusitis, bronchitis, and respiratory infections. Individuals with asthma or hypersensitivity pneumonitis may be at risk for progression to more severe disease if the relationship between illness and exposure to a damp building is not recognized and exposure continues.
Building dampness and subsequent respiratory illnesses in some building occupants occurs in part from a lack of knowledge and understanding of the nature and severity of these problems among designers, builders, building owners, employers, and the building occupants themselves.