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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Non-Clinical Medicine - Respiratory Medicine - Public Health and Epidemiology

Residential Dampness and Molds and the Risk of Developing Asthma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Published: Wednesday, November 07, 2012
Author: Reginald Quansah et al.

by Reginald Quansah, Maritta S. Jaakkola, Timo T. Hugg, Sirpa A M. Heikkinen, Jouni J. K. Jaakkola


Studies from different geographical regions have assessed the relations between indoor dampness and mold problems and the risk of asthma, but the evidence has been inconclusive.


To assess the relations between indicators of indoor dampness and mold problems and the risk of developing new asthma, and to investigate whether such relations differ according to the type of exposure.

Data sources

A systematic literature search of PubMed database from 1990 through March 2012 and the reference lists of recent reviews and of relevant articles identified in our search.

Study selection

Cohort/longitudinal and incident case-control studies assessing the relation between mold/dampness and new asthma were included.

Data extraction

Three authors independently evaluated eligible articles and extracted relevant information using a structured form.


Sixteen studies were included: 11 cohort and 5 incident case-control studies. The summary effect estimates (EE) based on the highest and lowest estimates for the relation between any exposure and onset of asthma were 1.50 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.25–1.80, random-effects model, Q-statistic 38.74 (16), P?=?0.001) and 1.31 (95% CI 1.09–1.58, random-effects model, Q-statistic 40.08 (16), P?=?0.000), respectively. The summary effect estimates were significantly elevated for dampness (fixed-effects model: EE 1.33, 95% CI 1.12–1.56, Q-statistic 8.22 (9), P?=?0.413), visible mold (random-effects model; EE 1.29, 95% CI 1.04–1.60, 30.30 (12), P?=?0.001), and mold odor (random-effects model; EE 1.73, 95% CI 1.19–2.50, Q-statistics 14.85 (8), P?=?0.038), but not for water damage (fixed-effects model; EE 1.12, 95% CI 0.98–1.27). Heterogeneity was observed in the study-specific effect estimates.


The evidence indicates that dampness and molds in the home are determinants of developing asthma. The association of the presence of visible mold and especially mold odor to the risk of asthma points towards mold-related causal agents.