Meta-Analyses of the Associations of Respiratory Health Effects with Dampness and Mold in Homes
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences recently completed a critical review of the scientific literature pertaining to the association of indoor dampness and mold contamination with adverse health effects. In this paper, we report the results of quantitative meta-analysis of the studies reviewed in the IOM report. We developed point estimates and confidence intervals (CIs) to summarize the association of several respiratory and asthma-related health outcomes with the presence of dampness and mold in homes. The odds ratios and confidence intervals from the original studies were transformed to the log scale and random effect models were applied to the log odds ratios and their variance. Models were constructed both accounting for the correlation between multiple results within the studies analyzed and ignoring such potential correlation. Central estimates of ORs for the health outcomes ranged from 1.32 to 2.10, with most central estimates between 1.3 and 1.8. Confidence intervals (95%) excluded unity except in two of 28 instances, and in most cases the lower bound of the CI exceeded 1.2. In general, the two meta-analysis methods produced similar estimates for ORs and CIs. Based on the results of the meta-analyses, building dampness and mold are associated with approximately 30% to 80% increases in a variety of respiratory and asthma-related health outcomes. The results of these meta-analyses reinforce the IOM's recommendation that actions be taken to prevent and reduce building dampness problems.