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A hazard evaluation of Cryptococcus neoformans and Histoplasma capsulatum exposure at a silica plant in response to a case of cryptococcal meningitis.

King B; Trout D; Lenhart S
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 10-15, 2003, Dallas, Texas. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2003 May; :65
NIOSH researchers conducted a health hazard evaluation (HHE) at a facility that produces ground silica for paints, glass, and various other sand products. The evaluation was in response to a request made by the company management regarding potential employee exposures to the fungi Cryptococcus neoformans and Histoplasma capsulatum associated with large accumulations of bird manure. An employee who had worked at the plant had been diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis. These concerns centered around an old screen tower at the plant. The screen tower, built in 1937, is a seven-story building, which the plant had used infrequently after a new tower was built in the 1950s. Due to holes in the walls and ceiling used as entry points, the old screen tower had become a roosting site for pigeons and other birds. The result was the build-up of several inches to a foot of guano on the top floors of the building. During the evaluation, the NIOSH investigators performed a walk-through of that building and others of concern at the plant. Additionally, meetings were held with employees, union officials, and management to answer questions and address concerns. Informational material, including the NIOSH-produced CDC guide lines, "Histoplasmosis: Protecting Workers at Risk," was distributed. The NIOSH investigators concluded a potential health hazard existed in the old screen tower, although it was impossible to directly relate the current illness of the employee with a specific occupational exposure at the site. Recommendations were provided for both immediate and long term measures which the company could implement for prevention of employee exposure to these fungi. These included the use of personal protective equipment such as full facepiece, powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), disposable coveralls and gloves during work in the screen tower, re-evaluation of current work duties in the building, and removal or isolation of the guano.
Fungi; Workers; Occupational-exposure; Exposure-levels; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pigeon-breeders-disease; Microorganisms; Pulmonary-system-disorders
Publication Date
Document Type
Fiscal Year
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Work Environment and Workforce: Special Populations
Source Name
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 10-15, 2003, Dallas, Texas
Page last reviewed: December 18, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division