Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-93-1119-2374, Saint Joseph's Catholic Church Saint Leon, Indiana.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a health hazard evaluation at Saint Joseph''s Catholic Church in Saint Leon, Indiana, at the request of the Secretary of the church''s parish council. The request concerned evaluation of the health risks associated with worker exposures to a large accumulation of bat droppings during renovation activities in the church''s 6700 square foot attic. NIOSH researchers collected twenty samples of bat droppings from the church''s attic, one sample of moldy wood from its rafters, and four soil samples around its foundation to be analyzed for the fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum. H. capsulatum is the etiologic agent of histoplasmosis, the most common pulmonary mycosis of humans and animals. Acute, severe pulmonary histoplasmosis usually occurs in small epidemics involving exposure to an aerosol containing numerous spores resulting from the disturbance of highly infected material. A primary source of H. capsulatum is soil, especially in regions of bird or bat habitats. While wind is probably the most important means of disseminating H. capsulatum, the fungus can survive and be transmitted from one location to another on the feet of both birds and bats. Unlike birds, bats can become infected with H. capsulatum and consequently may excrete the organism in their feces. The twenty-five samples collected at Saint Joseph''s Catholic Church will be analyzed qualitatively by a new method using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) probe detection system. The time period required to develop such an analytical method was uncertain when this report was written; however, sampling results were not expected for several months. An amended report will be prepared and distributed when results are available. As explained in this report, it is prudent to assume that the bat droppings in the attic of Saint Joseph''s Catholic Church are contaminated with H. capsulatum and that disturbing this material represents a potential health hazard. Recommendations were made to reduce exposures to aerosolized dust by spraying the bat droppings with water prior to and during renovation activities. Further, each worker was recommended to wear a NIOSH/MSHA-approved fullfacepiece powered air-purifying respirator with high-efficiency filters, disposable protective clothing with a hood, disposable latex gloves under cotton work gloves, and disposable shoe coverings. Because the recommended ensemble of disposable personal protective equipment is more insulating than normal work clothing, precautions should be taken during renovation activities to reduce the risk of heat stress-related illnesses. Keywords: SIC 8661 (religious organizations), bats, Histoplasma capsulatum, histoplasmosis, and respiratory protection.