Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2002-0343-2902, Fayette County Courthouse, Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
In July 2002, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) from employees at the Fayette County Courthouse in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Employees had reported a variety of health concerns: headaches, nausea, tiredness, nasal and sinus symptoms, vomiting, burning eyes, sore throats, breathing problems, coughing, ear infections, and dizziness. The employees reported strong and unpleasant odors from the carpeting, old papers, and dirty ceiling tiles; poor air quality; lack of airflow; stale water; mold, fungus, and mildew; asbestos; excessive dust; and dampness. All of the concerns involved the basement and first floors of both the original courthouse and annex buildings. On August 28, 2002, NIOSH investigators completed a preliminary site walkthrough evaluation. Medical interviews and an environmental investigation were conducted in October of 2002. The environmental investigation revealed a number of locations in the courthouse that may have had mold growth due to water incursion or leakage. The ventilation systems in most of the basement and first floors were inadequate (i.e., air changes and the amount of fresh air entering the offices did not meet the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers [ASHRAE] minimum requirements). Temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide levels were largely within recommendations in all monitored areas. The levels for volatile organic compounds were generally below established exposure limits. The ventilation systems should be upgraded to meet ASHRAE recommendations. Water leaks should be repaired and damaged ceiling tiles and walls should be replaced with care to ensure that any generated dust does not enter occupied sections of the building. Interviewed office workers reported respiratory symptoms consistent with asthma with onset after the date of hire. Environmental assessment demonstrated insufficient ventilation, mold growth, and water incursion in the building.