Symptoms linked to poor indoor air quality

Information about symptoms linked to poor indoor air quality, treatment of indoor air-related symptoms, peer support activities, and advocacy work.

Moisture and mould damage and indoor air impurities can lead to health problems. According to a 2010 estimate by the Ministry of the Environment, 600,000–800,000 Finns are affected by water damage and mould exposure on a daily basis.

Nearly half a million working-aged people experienced symptoms due to indoor air quality in their workplace in 2019. Some 250,000 people have visited healthcare services sometime in their lifetime due to symptoms or illness caused by poor indoor air quality.

The most common harmful conditions in the workplace are stuffy and dry air, inadequate ventilation, draughts, and unpleasant odours. The most common symptoms are nose, eye, and throat irritation, as well as fatigue and feeling foggy in the brain. Healthcare professionals experience more symptoms than those working in a school or an office. 

Symptoms that develop at home are significantly less frequent than those that develop at work. According to the Finterveys 2017 survey, 8% of working-aged respondents reported that they had sometimes experienced symptoms resulting from poor indoor air quality in their home. 10% of women and 6% of men have sometimes experienced indoor air-related symptoms in their home. 

For many people, encountering indoor air problems is also difficult because of the indirect problems they cause, such as financial difficulties. A difficult life situation can also cause physical symptoms, such as depression.  

Respiratory symptoms caused by water damage are predominantly mild and transient if the harmful exposure stops. People may feel that their symptoms are endangering their health and threatening their future. It is the physician’s duty to explain the nature of the symptoms clearly, provide instructions for treating the symptoms, and give information on the health hazards of indoor air problems. In addition, physicians should support the investigation of indoor air problems as far as possible.

It has not been possible to establish a causal link between water damage and any health effects. This is because we still do not know the reasons and mechanisms behind these health effects. However, water damage in buildings has been proven to be one of the risk factors for respiratory symptoms and asthma.

There are several risk factors for respiratory symptoms and asthma, and it is often impossible to determine what the impact of an individual factor is on the onset of the disease. The existence of a risk factor increases the likelihood of illness, but its existence does not necessarily mean that the person will get sick.

There is sufficient evidence of the health effects of water damage to justify the comprehensive prevention and repair of water damage in buildings. 

Medically, there is moderate evidence that water damage in buildings is connected to

  • upper respiratory symptoms in people with asthma
  • the development of asthma
  • upper respiratory symptoms
  • coughing
  • shortness of breath 
  • wheezing. 

Medically, there is weak evidence that water damage in buildings is linked to 

  • respiratory infections 
  • allergic rhinitis
  • general symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, and nausea
  • atopic dermatitis.

Water damage at home and your health

A handbook to support everyday life.