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Building-related respiratory disease in college employees.

Schleiff PL; Park J; Kreiss K
Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2003 Apr; 167(7):A503
Recurrent complaints of new-onset asthma and building-related symptoms persisted among college employees after 14 environmental investigations occurred over 20 years. We undertook a survey to assess symptom and diagnosis excesses in relation to environmental indices of water damage in rooms of buildings. Participants (N=393) completed health questionnaires. Occupied rooms (N=721) were scored for mold odor, visible mold, stains, and moisture and exposure indices were computed. Respiratory symptom prevalences were examined by building characteristics and exposure indices. Odds ratios were computed for symptoms in relation to exposure indices, adjusting for job status, gender, age, smoking, allergies, latex glove usage, and year of hire. About half of the participants reported wheeze, chest tightness, or shortness of breath, and 60% of those noted them to be less severe or to require less medication away from work. Overall, 17% reported physician-diagnosed asthma, about half of whom noted work-exacerbation. Occupants of water-damaged buildings had statistically higher prevalence of any post-hire chest symptom (44%) compared to occupants of other buildings (17%). Work-related chest symptoms followed the same pattern (34% and 10%, respectively). The presence of visible mold, water stain, or mold odor significantly increased the odds (1.7 to 4.4) of work-related chest symptoms, work-related upper respiratory symptoms (sinus or nasal symptoms, or throat irritation), and work-related eye irritation. Building-related excesses of chest symptoms occurred in water-damaged buildings and were associated with indices of potential mold exposure. Exposure indices from visual and olfactory scoring may be useful in predicting risk and the need for remediation.
Respiratory-infections; Respiratory-irritants; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Work-environment; Workers; Environmental-factors; Questionnaires; Age-factors; Allergies; Smoking; Demographic-characteristics; Nasal-disorders; Eye-irritants; Throat-disorders; Indoor-air-pollution; Microorganisms; Fungi; Indoor-environmental-quality
Publication Date
Document Type
Abstract; Conference/Symposia Proceedings
Fiscal Year
Issue of Publication
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Disease and Injury: Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Source Name
American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2003 International Conference, The American Thoracic Society, Seattle, WA, May 16-21, 2003
Page last reviewed: September 24, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division