Dampness and mould in schools and respiratory symptoms in children: the HITEA study

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Abstract

Background

The adverse respiratory health effects of dampness and mould in the home have been extensively reported, but few studies have evaluated the health effects of such exposures in schools.

Objectives

To assess the associations between dampness and mould in school buildings and respiratory symptoms among 6–12-year-old pupils in three European countries with different climates.

Methods

Based on information from self-reports and observations, we selected 29 primary schools with and 27 without moisture damage in Spain, the Netherlands and Finland. Information on respiratory symptoms and potential determinants was obtained using a parent-administered questionnaire among 6–12-year-old pupils. Country-specific associations between moisture damage and respiratory symptoms were evaluated using multivariable multilevel mixed effects logistic regression analysis.

Results

Data from 9271 children were obtained. Nocturnal dry cough was consistently associated with moisture damage at school in each of the three countries: OR 1.15; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.30 with p for heterogeneity 0.54. Finnish children attending a moisture damaged school more often had wheeze (OR 1.36; CI 1.04 to 1.78), nasal symptoms (OR 1.34; CI 1.05 to 1.71) and respiratory-related school absence (OR 1.50; CI 1.10 to 2.03). No associations with these symptoms were found in the Netherlands or Spain (p for heterogeneity <0.05).

Conclusions

Moisture damage in schools may have adverse respiratory health effects in pupils. Finnish school children seem to be at higher risk, possibly due to quantitative and/or qualitative differences in exposure.

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