Impacts of the indoor environment on child health

Mother waking child in morning, photo by Evgeny Atamanenko/Adobe Stock

Twenty-six million children in the EU under age 15 are exposed to damp, noise, darkness or cold in their own homes. Exposure to each of these four housing deficiencies is associated with poorer health outcomes for the children affected.

Additionally, the economic benefit associated with eliminating EU children’s exposure to household damp and mould can be estimated at $62 billion over the next 40 years.


Housing inadequacies, including those that negatively influence the indoor climate, affect a significant number of EU citizens, with many living in homes with damp and rot, and without the ability to maintain a comfortable temperature at home. This is a serious problem, as housing inadequacies have a significant impact on people’s health, with children being one of the groups that are particularly affected.

Evidence shows that bad housing conditions increase the risk of severe ill-health or disability during childhood and early adulthood. Different aspects of a child’s home, such as temperature, humidity level, air quality, noise level and level of daylight, all have the potential to influence multiple aspects of the health and development of children, making indoor climate a key element for a healthy childhood.


RAND Europe was commissioned by VELUX Group to conduct a study exploring the impact of poor indoor climate on child health and on the overall societal costs related to this. It focussed on a number of specific indoor climate hazards, including damp (which is often linked to mould), noise, excess cold and lack of daylight.


The study included 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 the REA looked at evidence from across Europe and North America, the other three tasks focussed on the EU.

Key Findings

  • 30 percent of children in the EU are exposed to one or several of the following indoor climate hazards: damp, noise, excess cold and/or lack of daylight (equating to 26 million children aged under 15).
  • Exposure to each of the four housing deficiencies stated above is associated with poorer health outcomes for the children affected. For example, damp promotes the growth of all kinds of microorganisms, such as mould, other fungi and bacteria, which in turn increases the risk of developing asthma as well as other respiratory diseases, atopic conditions and allergies.
  • The health of more than 1 million children in the EU could be improved if homes which reported damp, noise, excess cold and 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 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.