Date: 09 Sep 2004

Symptoms in relation to chemicals and dampness in newly built dwellings

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Objectives: As the airtightness of dwellings has recently increased, problems associated with indoor air pollution and dampness have become important environmental health issues. The aim of this study was to clarify whether symptoms in residents living in newly built dwellings were related to chemicals and dampness. Methods: Symptoms of 317 residents were surveyed by standardized questionnaires, and the concentrations of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and 17 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in their homes were measured. Dampness (condensation on window panes and/or walls, and mold growth) was identified by questionnaires given to the householders or their partners. Results: Some VOCs (toluene, butyl acetate, ethylbenzene, alpha-pinene, p-dichlorobenzene, nonanal, and xylene) were significantly related to the symptoms, and the sum of all VOCs (all identified VOCs) was significantly related to throat and respiratory symptoms [odds ratio (OR) for eye symptoms =2.4; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0–5.5], although the concentrations of VOCs were relatively low. As for the dampness index, condensation on window panes and/or walls was related to all symptoms, and mold growth was related to all symptoms except skin, throat and respiratory and general symptoms. As the number of dampness signs increased, the ORs increased for the symptoms except general symptoms (OR for nose symptoms = 4.4, 95% CI 1.6–11.9). Conclusion: Both VOCs and dampness were significantly related to symptoms. We should take measures to reduce the concentrations of VOCs, dampness and microbial growth in dwellings.