Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, Field Epidemiology Report 90-05, 1990 Jan; :1-13
An investigation of an outbreak of building related symptoms at a Federal facility was conducted. The investigation was prompted by a report of a possible epidemic of respiratory illness in employees in a ten story office building in a Federal facility located in a Maryland suburb of Washington, DC. A number of employees had complained of burning eyes, headache, chronic fatigue, and other symptoms since 1977. Previous investigations had found no agent that could have caused the symptoms, but had detected molds in the basement, and had documented inadequate performance of one of two heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units serving the building. A total of 423 employees in the building (building-A) and a nearby similar building (building-B) completed a questionnaire to obtain information on demographic characteristics, building exposure history, symptoms and prior medical history, smoking, and family history of respiratory illness. The HVAC systems in building-A were inspected. Environmental monitoring for carbon-dioxide (124389), hydrocarbons, pesticides, and other agents was performed at both buildings. Fifty five employees in building-A (17.4%) and eight at building-B (8.5%) were defined as cases; they reported experiencing three of the symptoms: running nose, headache, fatigue, and eye irritation for at least 30 days during the preceding year. Female workers in building-A were more likely to be cases than males. Smokers and workers older than 30 in building-A were less likely to be cases than nonsmokers and younger workers. Workers at building-A who reported respiratory allergies were more likely to be case than similar workers in building-B. Multivariate analysis indicated that being female and working in building-A were risk factors for being a case. Both HVAC units at building-A were operating, but pooling of condensate from the air was observed on the floors of air handling rooms for both units. Indoor and outdoor carbon-dioxide concentrations were similar at both buildings. The authors conclude that the incidence of respiratory symptoms is significantly associated with working in building-A independent of other risk factors.