In industrialized countries the population spends 90% of its time in enclosed spaces. Since 1973, energy consumption for heating decreased on average by 36% per dwelling. Low-quality insulation, a fall in temperature and inadequate ventilation translated into high humidity in dwellings, which led to proliferation of moulds.
The allergenic, toxic and infectious effects of moulds on human health are documented. However, the potential dose/effect relationship between measured concentrations of indoor moulds and respiratory disorders often remains difficult to assess accurately. In several cases, fungi were demonstrated only as a promoter of health disorders. In a few cases (hypersensitivity pneumonitis, invasive fungal infections), the pathogenesis is without doubt due to environmental fungal exposure in a limited number of patients. On the other hand, the role of fungi was suspected but not proven for some well-defined pathologies, and some ill-defined health disorders, affecting large numbers of patients, such as the Sick Building Syndrome, rhinitis, sinusitis and conjunctivitis, as well as asthma and exacerbations of bronchitis. Eighteen fungal species, suspected of playing a role in public health, have been listed by the French Superior Council of Public Health. For each species, the proliferation conditions, type of substrates contaminated and heath effects reported in the literature are described.
The lack of standardization of measurements of concentrations of fungal species, the interactions with chemical compounds (formaldehydes), organic compounds (mycotoxins, endotoxins) and between species, makes the analysis of indoor fungal contamination complicated. The time has come to establish clearly a relationship between exposure to fungi and health disorders, rather than continuing to investigate factors related to the level of indoor fungal contamination.