NIOSH Alert on Preventing Respiratory Disease from Exposures in Damp Buildings

Published December 12, 2012

Occupants of damp office buildings, schools, and other nonindustrial buildings are at risk for developing respiratory symptoms and disease, NIOSH warned in the agency’s latest alert released last week. According to NIOSH, dampness in buildings can cause the growth of mold, fungi, and bacteria, and lead to the release of volatile organic compounds and the breakdown of building materials. Exposure to these hazards in damp buildings could cause respiratory problems such as rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. The alert details several case reports in which occupants of damp buildings were affected by these respiratory diseases and offers recommendations on identifying, responding to, and preventing building dampness.

NIOSH’s recommendations fall into the following categories:

  • Preventive building design, construction, renovation, and commissioning. This includes keeping the building foundation dry, keeping building materials dry during construction, and ensuring the dehumidification of indoor air.
  • Building maintenance and operation. Building owners and IH and OEHS professionals should ensure the proper operation and maintenance of the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system; remove settled dust; and promptly correct sources of excess moisture.
  • Renovation and remediation. NIOSH recommends the careful planning of renovation and remediation projects to prevent exposures to occupants.

Read the NIOSH alert on the agency’s website.