Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2004-0138-2967, Samuel Staples Elementary School, Easton, Connecticut.
Samuel Staples Elementary School is a pre-kindergarten to 4th grade school in Easton, Connecticut, consisting of an older, one-story building completed in 1931, and a newer wing which was completed in 1970. A computer room, library, and other classrooms were completed in 1989 along with a ramp connecting the older wing with the newer wing. Concerns regarding water leakage and indoor air quality in the school have been on-going for a number of years. In February 2004, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health received a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) request from the Easton Health Director to design, administer, and analyze a health questionnaire of employees at Samuel Staples Elementary School. We administered the questionnaire to all employees, as well as staff and volunteers from the Senior Center located in the basement of the school, on June 2-3, 2004. The health survey included questions on respiratory and non-respiratory symptoms occurring in the last four weeks and previous 12 months, work-related patterns, selected physician-diagnosed conditions, perceptions of environmental conditions in the building in the previous four weeks, demographic questions, and a work history (see Appendix B). We compared the prevalence of symptoms and self-reported physician-diagnosed asthma observed in participants to U.S. adult prevalences, and the prevalence of physician-diagnosed and current asthma to Connecticut prevalences. We also compared work-related patterns in the previous four weeks to a study of office workers in non-problem buildings and compared prevalences of persons working in the lower wing or both wings to the upper wing of the school. Compared to national prevalences, participants were approximately two times more likely to have ever been diagnosed with asthma or to currently have asthma. When compared to state prevalences, respondents were 1.2 times as likely to have ever been diagnosed with asthma or to report current asthma. Participants also reported respiratory and non-respiratory symptoms which improved when away from work more frequently than a study of office workers in 41 buildings with no known problems. When symptom prevalence in the last four weeks was linked to current work area, there was a higher prevalence of work-related stuffy, itchy, or runny nose, shortness of breath, and headaches among Elementary School staff who worked in the lower wing when compared to the upper wing. The most frequently reported environmental complaints were little air movement, moldy or musty odors, and the temperature being too hot occurring one or more times per week in the previous four weeks. We recommend that employees receive medical care for persistent symptoms. Water incursion should be promptly repaired, and all wetted materials should be replaced if they cannot be dried within 24 hours. Since the current building is to be vacated at the close of the school year, we recommend that when the new school is occupied that proper housekeeping practices are followed and regular maintenance schedules are established. If the current school building continues to be occupied in the future for other purposes, further investigation and repair of the building is needed in order to improve building conditions and protect the health of the building occupants. A health questionnaire was conducted by NIOSH at Samuel Staples Elementary School in June 2004. The building had a history of water leakage and indoor air quality problems. Analyses conducted on the questionnaire data indicated an excess of respiratory and non-respiratory health conditions in the participants from the school. Persons with persistent symptoms should receive medical evaluation. Proper housekeeping practices should be followed and a regular building maintenance schedule should be established.