Evaluation of indoor environmental quality and health concerns in a public elementary school
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Evaluation of indoor environmental quality and health concerns in a public elementary school

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  • Journal Article:
    Health hazard evaluation interim report;NIOSH health hazard evaluation report;
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    The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from a union representing employees at an elementary school because of concerns about possible exposure to mold in the school building. In 2014, some elementary school employees went on medical leave reportedly because of illness from mold exposure after receiving results from fungal immunoglobulin G (IgG) blood tests and urine mycotoxin tests. Knowledge of these results prompted over 20 additional school employees to have their blood tested for IgG to fungi. Some of these employees and their physicians interpreted their blood test results as meaning they had high levels of mold in their bodies. Other employees had recurring upper respiratory and sinus infections and throat and eye irritation that they attributed to their work environment. During our evaluation, we (1) checked for moisture, water damage, and mold inside the building and in the crawl spaces beneath the building, (2) evaluated the ventilation systems, (3) measured carbon dioxide, temperature, and relative humidity, and (4) asked employees about their work, medical history, and work-related health concerns. We found no moisture, signs of water damage, or mold in the school or crawl spaces, except for three classrooms with minor mold growth. Some classroom unit ventilators did not work, had incorrectly installed or missing air filters, or were blocked. Carbon dioxide levels were high in some classrooms. Our employee interviews and review of medical records found symptoms often associated with damp buildings or inadequate ventilation but that are common in the general population. We found no evidence that problems such as neuropathy, thrush, and cancer were related to the school. Lacking an explanation for all symptoms led some employees to seek answers from unvalidated medical tests. To address indoor environmental quality concerns, we recommended the school (1) stop environmental sampling and blood testing for molds and urine testing for mycotoxins; (2) hire a licensed professional mechanical engineer to assess the ventilation systems; (3) encourage employees to report water leaks or water damage; and (4) create a system for employees to report building concerns and to receive feedback on how issues were resolved. We recommended employees report work-related health concerns and see an occupational medicine physician about health problems they think may be work related.

    Recommended citation for this report: NIOSH [2015]. Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of indoor environmental quality and health concerns in a public elementary school. By Page E, Burr G, Zwack L, Kawamoto M. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH HHE Report No. 2015-0025-3237.

    NIOSHTIC No 20046430


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