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Health

Unhealthy buildings and their cost to society

Unhealthy buildings affect the health of Europeans as well as their wallets. The cost to cover treatment for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is currently €82 billion per year.

The shift away from outdoor work to ‘desk jobs’ has left Europeans spending far more time indoors. In fact, today 90% of our time is spent inside – two-thirds of which at home1 – meaning that that the indoor environment of the buildings we live, work and play in has a major impact on our health.

The entire respiratory system becomes vulnerable when exposed to poor indoor air quality, which can provoke the onset of various respiratory illnesses and even raise the risk of developing non-respiratory diseases. In fact, people are 40% more likely to have asthma when living in a damp or mouldy home, and today, 2.2 million Europeans live with asthma as a result of their living conditions. Asthma isn’t the only health risk, either: allergies, disabilities and premature deaths are also linked to living in damp buildings.

The health impact in Euros and cents

The economic impact of these illnesses is also significant: the cost to European societies of asthma and chronic ­obstructive pulmonary disease is €82 billion per year. Half of that amount goes to direct costs such as medicine and care. The other half, almost €40 billion, is calculated as indirect costs such as loss of work productivity. This should put a good indoor environment at the top of every employer’s agenda, also given the fact that healthy indoor air quality at work can increase people’s productivity by up to 10%2.

1 World Health Organization Europe (2013)
2 David P. Wyon and Pawel Wargocki, ASHRAE Journal, March 2013, pp. 46-50

Indirect annual costs of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, e.g. loss of work productivity


Direct annual costs of treating asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, e.g. medicine and care


Total annual cost for European societies attributable to asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


Europeans are 40% more likely to develop asthma when they live in a damp or mouldy home

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