WHO Forewords - World Health Organisation


Dampness and Mould

Healthy indoor air is recognized as a basic right. People spend a large part of their time each day indoors: in homes, offices, schools, health care facilities, or other private or public buildings. The quality of the air they breathe in those buildings is an important determinant of their health and well-being. The inadequate control of indoor air quality therefore creates a considerable health burden.

Indoor air pollution – such as from dampness and mould, chemicals and other biological agents – is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. About 1.5 million deaths each year are associated with the indoor combustion of solid fuels, the majority of which occur among women and children in low-income countries.

Knowledge of indoor air quality, its health significance and the factors that cause poor quality are key to enabling action by relevant stakeholders – including building owners, developers, users and occupants – to maintain clean indoor air. Many of these actions are beyond the power of the individual building user and must be taken by public authorities through the relevant regulatory measures concerning building design, construction and materials, and through adequate housing and occupancy policies. The criteria for what constitutes healthy indoor air quality provided by these guidelines are therefore essential to prevent disease related to indoor air pollution.

These guidelines were developed by the WHO Regional Office for Europe in collaboration with WHO headquarters as part of the WHO programme on indoor air pollution. Further guidelines on indoor air quality in relation to pollution emanating from specific chemicals and combustion products are under development. The WHO guidelines on indoor air quality: dampness and mould offer guidance to public health and other authorities planning or formulating regulations, action and policies to increase safety and ensure healthy conditions of buildings. The guidelines were developed and peer reviewed by scientists from all over the world, and the recommendations provided were informed by a rigorous review of all currently available scientific knowledge on this subject. We at WHO thank these experts for their efforts, and believe that this work will contribute to improving the health of people around the world.

Marc Danzon

WHO Regional Director for Europe


Selected Pollutants

Clean air is a basic requirement of life. The quality of air inside homes, offices, schools, day care centres, public buildings, health care facilities or other private and public buildings where people spend a large part of their life is an essential determinant of healthy life and people’s well-being. Hazardous substances emitted from buildings, construction materials and indoor equipment or due to human activities indoors, such as combustion of fuels for cooking or heating, leads to a broad range of health problems and may even be fatal.

Indoor exposure to air pollutants causes very significant damage to health globally – especially in developing countries. The chemicals reviewed in this volume are common indoor air pollutants in all regions of the world. Despite this, public health awareness on indoor air pollution has lagged behind that on outdoor air pollution. The current series of indoor air quality guidelines, focuses specifically on this problem. This volume, the second in the series following that addressing the hazards of dampness and mould, sets guidelines for a range of chemical substances most commonly polluting indoor air. Understanding of the hazards of these substances is a first step in identifying the actions necessary to avoid and reduce the adverse impacts of these pollutants on health. If these guidelines are sensibly applied as part of policy development, indoor exposure to air pollutants should decline and a significant reduction in adverse effects on health should follow.

WHO has a long tradition in synthesizing the evidence on health aspects of air quality and in preparing air quality guidelines defining conditions for healthy air. We are grateful to the outstanding scientists conducting this work. We hope that these new guidelines will be useful globally to people assessing indoor air quality with a view to predicting its effects on health, and also to those with responsibility for introducing measures to reduce health risks from indoor exposure to air pollutants. Prevention of the health effects of poor indoor air quality is needed in all regions of the world, and especially in developing countries. WHO will assist its Member States in implementing the guidelines, synthesizing the evidence on the most effective approaches to indoor air quality management and on the health benefits of these actions. It will continue encouraging the relevant policy developments and inter-sectoral collaboration necessary for ensuring access to healthy indoor air for everyone.

Zsuzsanna Jakab

WHO Regional Director for Europe