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Dampness and mould in schools and respiratory symptoms in children: the HITEA study
  1. Alicia Borràs-Santos1,2,3,4,
  2. José H Jacobs5,
  3. Martin Täubel6,
  4. Ulla Haverinen-Shaughnessy6,
  5. Esmeralda JM Krop5,
  6. Kati Huttunen7,
  7. Maija-Riitta Hirvonen6,7,
  8. Juha Pekkanen6,
  9. Dick JJ Heederik5,
  10. Jan-Paul Zock1,2,3,
  11. Anne Hyvärinen6
  1. 1Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Barcelona, Spain
  2. 2Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), Barcelona, Spain
  3. 3CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Barcelona, Spain
  4. 4Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Barcelona, Spain
  5. 5Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  6. 6Department of Environmental Health, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Kuopio, Finland
  7. 7Department of Environmental Science, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alícia Borràs Santos, Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB), 88, E-08003 Barcelona, Spain; aborras{at}


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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