Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2000-0385-2813, Equifax Payment Services, St. Petersburg, Florida.
On August 7, 2002, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a confidential employee request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) at the Equifax company in St. Petersburg, Florida. The request asked NIOSH to determine if workplace exposures are related to health problems that some employees at this facility have reported. The primary health complaint indicated on the request was hair loss. Specific work areas of concern identified in the request were offices in the Southeast section of the building. On September 12-13, 2002, NIOSH researchers conducted a site visit at the Equifax facility. The objectives of this site visit were to determine if there were unusual occurrences of hair loss or other health problems among employees and evaluate plausible exposure pathways for environmental substances that could cause hair loss or other health problems. During the site visit, a walkthrough of the facility was conducted, and reports from previous evaluations that assessed employee health complaints and measured environmental contaminants at Equifax were reviewed. The air handling units (AHUs) supporting the southeast portion of the building were inspected, and surface samples wee collected for metals analysis. Information regarding the past use of radioactive materials at the building prior to occupancy by Equifax was reviewed, and a survey to assess ionizing radiation was conducted. Confidential medical interviews with 28 Equifax employees were conducted. Following the site visit, two Equifax employees and one former employee who were unavailable during the site visit were interviewed by telephone. NIOSH representatives also reviewed information compiled by the requestor concerning employees diagnosed with cancer. The building walkthrough and review of previous environmental evaluations did not identify any obvious pollutant sources that could contribute to the reported health complaints or poor indoor environmental quality (IEQ). The AHUs inspected were operational, clean (filters, coils, accessible portions of the AHUs), and appeared well-maintained and in good condition. the outdoor air intakes were well spaced and were not located in close proximity to building exhaust vents. Surface samples collected from the ventilation systems supporting the southeast portion of the building and the cafeteria did not identify any thallium, a metal associated with hair loss. All radiation measurements were within general background levels (<15 microRoentgens per hour) and no evidence of contamination was found in any of the surface measurements. Several types of hair loss have occurred among some Equifax employees. eleven individuals with a history of current moderate to severe diffuse thinning over the scalp were interviewed; these 11 individuals worked in 8 different areas of the building. five persons with confirmed or suspected alopecia areata of varying severity, were identified. three of the five persons worked in one primary area and developed initial hair loss over approximately 1.5 year period. regarding cancer, there was no unusual distribution of similar cancers or exposure to cancer causing agents found at this facility. No evidence was found that the hair loss/thinning reported by Equifax employees is related to an occupational exposures(s) at Equifax. The occurrences of cancer among Equifax employees reported to NIOSH representatives are unlikely to be related to occupational exposures at the Equifax facility. No occupational exposure to ionizing radiation was identified. Recommendations to address employee health concerns are provided; the importance of continued efforts towards achieving effective communication with employees is stressed.