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Research Questions

  1. What is the evidence, in terms of existing studies and analysis, concerning the impact of poor indoor climate in European homes and elsewhere on child health?
  2. How prevalent are problems related to non-optimal indoor climate in European homes?
  3. Which correlations can be observed between the prevalence of non-optimal indoor climate and the health status of affected children?
  4. What is the impact of poor indoor climate on mortality and quality of life as well as on education of children exposed to it?
  5. Based on this, which social and economic effects can be identified and what are the costs for society as a whole?

The 'healthiness' of indoor environments such as homes, schools and work places has recently received increasing attention and been the subject of publications and guidelines by governmental agencies and the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO has distinguished between the following aspects of the indoor environment: thermal environment; air quality environment; noise environment; and light environment. The combination of all those is also referred to as indoor climate.

The objective of this study was to assess the impact of poor indoor climate on child health and to estimate the overall societal costs related to this. For this purpose, the study team has combined a rapid evidence assessment (REA), a multivariate regression analysis, an estimation of the health and educational burden as well as a macroeconomic modelling exercise. While REA looked at evidence from across Europe and North America, the other three tasks focussed on the EU28.

In terms of specific aspects of poor indoor climate, the REA covered the following indoor climate hazards: damp; mould; indoor air pollution; noise; radiation (through radon); excess cold; lack of daylight. In function of the statistical data available, the regression analysis focussed on a subset of these hazards. The estimation of the health and educational burden as well as the macroeconomic modelling then zoomed in on the impact of damp and mould. The modelling also covered an additional aspect, which is the educational and economic impact of poor ventilation in schools.

Key Findings

  • In the EU, 30 percent of children are exposed to one or several of the following indoor climate hazards: damp, noise, excess cold and/or lack of daylight.
  • Exposure to each of the four housing deficiencies stated above is associated with poorer health outcomes for the children affected.
  • The health of more than 1 million children in the EU could be improved if homes which reported damp, noise, excess cold and/or lack of daylight, corrected the deficiencies.
  • The burden of disease from indoor damp and mould exposure of children in relation to asthma, atopic dermatitis, as well as respiratory infections, is 37,500 Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) for the EU as a whole, or 276 DALYs per 100,000 children.
  • The total number of school days missed by children, across the EU and attributable to the prevalence of damp and mould in their homes, is about 1.7 million days per year.
  • The economic costs associated with children's exposure to damp and mould can be estimated to be $62 billion over the next 40 years. In other words, this would be the additional GDP of EU economy up until 2060 were all European households with children made damp-free.
  • Improving ventilation rates in European schools could lead to substantial economic benefits for the EU - even a slight improvement in indoor air quality of 0.5 litres per second (l/s) per person in schools would be associated with a cumulative total increase in GDP by 2050 of $24.4 billion, which would increase to $57 billion by 2060.

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The research described in this report was commissioned by the VELUX Group and conducted by RAND Europe.

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