Dampness and Mold at Home Linked With Greater Risk of Atopic Dermatitis, Asthma

Children who lived in apartments or newer buildings were also found to have an increased risk of atopic dermatitis later in life.

Several home environment exposures during childhood were associated with an increased risk of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis (AD) later in life, according to study findings published in Science of the Total Environment.

With a majority of time spent indoors, especially at home, researchers noted that certain exposures have been cited to increase risk of asthma and allergic diseases. In the in-home environment, these documented risk factors include dampness and mold, environmental tobacco smoke, chemical emissions, particularly from new materials, and recent painting.

“Asthma and allergic rhinitis often coexist and are the most common comorbidities for AD,” said the study authors. “Few studies have investigated indoor dampness exposure over several decades.”

They collected data on dampness and mold exposure at home from the Respiratory Health in Northern Europe (RHINE) study, a cohort study on development of asthma and allergic diseases that followed adults in Northern Europe over 2 decades (one baseline investigation and 2 follow up investigations every 10 years).

Associations between parental report on the home environment in the RHINE cohort and development of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and AD in the offspring of the RHINE participants were investigated.

A total of 17,881 offspring from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Estonia were included in the analysis, with home environment exposures of dampness and mold, type of dwelling, construction year, and indoor painting assessed via questionnaire by parents in the first follow up (RHINE II).

“The parents reported 10 years later within the frame of RHINE III offspring's birth year and offspring's asthma, allergic rhinitis, or AD. They also reported dampness and mold at home from RHINE II to RHINE III,” explained researchers.

Overall, prevalence of offspring's asthma before 10 years, asthma after 10 years, allergic rhinitis at any age, and AD at any age were 9.7%, 4.3%, 15.6%, and 17.3 %, respectively. A myriad of exposures were associated with offspring’s asthma or allergic diseases:

  • Asthma before 10 years associated to any indoor painting at RHINE II (OR, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.02-1.29; P = .021)
  • Asthma after 10 years associated with dampness/mold at home from RHINE II to RHINE III (OR, 1.33; 95% CI, 1.04-1.69; P = .023) and during both follow up periods (OR, 1.62; 95% CI, 1.23-2.13; P = .001), as well as living in the newest buildings (constructed in 1986–2001) (OR, 1.30; 95% CI, 1.02-1.66; P = .035)
  • Allergic rhinitis was associated with living in newer buildings constructed in 1961–1975 (OR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.04-1.35; P = .009), 1976-1985 (OR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.01-1.32; P = .0032), and 1986-2001 (OR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.09-1.41; P = .001)
  • AD was associated with visible mold (OR, 1.35, 95% CI, 1.12-1.62; P = .001), dampness/mold at home from RHINE II to RHINE III (OR, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.04-1.34; P = .008) and during both follow up periods (OR, 1.38; 95% CI, 1.19-1.59; P < .001), living in apartments (OR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.10-1.35; P < .001), and living in newer buildings constructed in 1961–1975 (OR, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.01-1.29; P = .037), 1976-1985 (OR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.02-1.32; P = .024), and 1986-2001 (OR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.10-1.41; P = .001)

Dose-response effects were also observed with longer exposure to dampness and mold regarding offspring's risk of asthma after 10 years and AD (20 years exposure vs 10 years exposure). Older offspring showed increased risk of developing asthma after 10 years and AD.

The study authors concluded that reducing moisture and mold damage at home may be beneficial for occupants with asthma and allergies. “More perspective studies are needed to investigate the effects of building characteristics and other indoor environment exposures on development of atopic diseases,” they added.


Wang J, Janson C, Malinovschi A, et al. Asthma, allergic rhinitis and atopic dermatitis in association with home environment - The RHINE study. Sci Total Environ. 2022 Sep 8;853:158609. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.158609

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