In the United States, exposure to mold due to building dampness is found to be responsible for more than about two out of every ten asthma cases. This costs the US Department of Health an additional 3.5 billion dollars. Considering this is a conservative estimate, the actual figures could be much higher. And it has taken into account just asthma, when toxic molds such as the black mold Stachybotrys have been proven to cause many other symptoms of mold sickness as well.
Can we have a clearer picture, please?
According to a recent study by the Finnish Institute for Occupational Health, the cost of treating mold related illnesses in that country is 450 million euros per year. The same study estimated the cost of rectifying the underlying causes of dampness and mold to be 950 million euros, bringing the total expense to nearly one and a half billion euros.
For Finland with a population of 5.3 million, the cost of healthcare per person due to poor air quality in buildings works out to be 84.91 euros, while the cost of building repair per person is 179.25 euros. If these figures are applied to the U.S. and the Canadian populations, we can have a fair idea about the impact of toxic molds on the economy.
Where do we stand now?
When the exchange rates are factored in, 35 billion US dollars would be the yearly cost of medical care for black mold related symptoms, and 73 billion for the repair of damage caused to buildings by dampness and toxic mold. That brings it to a total of 108 billion US dollars in expenses related to poor indoor air quality.
As for Canada, about 3.8 billion Canadian dollars would be the cost of health care for black mold related symptoms, and 8 billion for repair and remediation of buildings affected by dampness and toxic mold. Total cost finally comes to 11.8 billion Canadian dollars.
However, cost of health care is not the only fallout of illnesses. There’s a price individuals and businesses pay by way of productivity loss when people fall sick. The National Technology Agency of Finland (TEKES) estimates that the loss of productivity due to air quality issues costs 1200 euros per person in Finland. This is very much in accordance with international research, which puts down the cost to the Finnish economy at around 6 billion euros a year.
By the same logic the impact of poor indoor air quality can be estimated fairly accurately. For the United States it is 485 billion US dollars. Similarly, it costs the Canadian government 53 billion Canadian dollars every year.
What is the conclusion?
When you consolidate all the statistics and these conservative estimates, the total cost including loss of productivity and healthcare expenses resulting from dampness and black mold issues turns out to be above half a trillion US dollars. For the Canadian government, it is about 60 billion Canadian dollars.
When these figures are compared with the cost of repairs and remediation of the buildings at 73 billion US dollars for the United States, and at 11.8 billion Canadian dollars for Canada, it is very clear that remedial measures should be the top priority of the respective governments. The short-term expenses would be a small price to pay in view of the long-term savings.