Evaluation of potential employee exposures at a medical examiner’s office
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Evaluation of potential employee exposures at a medical examiner’s office

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      The HHE Program evaluated exposures to volatile organic compounds, mold, airborne particles, and formaldehyde in the autopsy suite, histology laboratory, and toxicology laboratory at a medical examiner's office. Some employees reported respiratory problems that may be related to occupational exposures, but other problems reported by employees such as acne, kidney stones, and hives were not related to work in the building. Chronic water damage was found throughout the building and mold growth and deteriorating ductwork lining were found. Disintegrated fiberglass was found in surface samples, but few intact fibers were present. Airborne formaldehyde exposures measured during five autopsies were below occupational exposure limits. Air flowed into the autopsy suite from the adjacent room as recommended and the number of air changes in the autopsy suite exceeded national guidelines. Airborne exposures to formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds in the toxicology laboratory were very low. HHE Program investigators recommended that the employer purchase local exhaust ventilation units for use during cranial autopsies. The potential for entrainment of morgue exhaust into the rooftop air intakes should be evaluated further. The employer should identify and repair all leaks in the building and remove mold from the ductwork to prevent mold spores from spreading through the ventilation system. When available, employees should use local exhaust ventilation for cranial autopsy saws. The use of powdered latex gloves was noted during the evaluation and should be stopped; nitrile gloves should be worn instead. Employees were encouraged to keep containers of formaldehyde closed except when needed during autopsies. Investigators also recommended that employees report health and safety concerns to their supervisor and their healthcare provider.

      Recommended citation for this report: NIOSH [2013]. Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of potential employee exposures at a medical examiner’s office. By King B, Page E. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH HETA No. 2012-0135-3184.

      NIOSHTIC No. 20042825

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