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Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2010-0168-3136, indoor environmental quality evaluation at a health clinic - Indiana.

Tapp L; Wiegand D; Burr G
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2010-0168-3136, 2011 Jul; :1-23
In response to a technical assistance request from the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration we evaluated a university-operated health clinic on December 21, 2010. Employees of the health clinic believed that poor IEQ was responsible for symptoms including headache, dizziness, lethargy, itchy and watery eyes, cough, and a metallic taste. We measured carbon dioxide, temperature, and relative humidity in the health clinic throughout the workday. We looked for evidence of water damage and checked the HVAC system. We reviewed previous IEQ evaluations conducted by the university environmental health and safety office. We also held confidential interviews with employees to discuss their health and workplace concerns. Additionally, we reviewed the medical records from employees who saw a doctor because of work-related health concerns. The carbon dioxide concentrations in the health clinic ranged from 475 to 600 ppm; outdoor concentrations were 420 ppm. Indoor carbon dioxide concentrations that are similar to outdoor concentrations suggest that the health clinic was adequately ventilated. Temperature in the health clinic ranged from 69 degrees F-72 degrees F, and relative humidity ranged from 22%-24%; these temperature and relative humidity levels are within recommended thermal comfort guidelines for the winter season. We did not see water damage to the walls, ceiling tiles, or exterior windows, and there was no evidence of water incursion in the space above the suspended ceiling. The constant volume HVAC system for the health clinic was approximately 40 years old but was well maintained. In 2010 the ventilation supply diffusers and return air grilles were cleaned, new thermostats were installed, and more outdoor air was provided to the HVAC system. Sixteen of 22 employees who were interviewed reported having symptoms that began or worsened at work in the 2 months prior to our visit. The most commonly reported symptoms included headache, eye irritation, shortness of breath, chest tightness, fatigue, and dizziness. Most of the employees who reported experiencing symptoms in 2010 reported that they worsened during the second floor renovation, particularly during the cleaning and renovation of the pamphlet room. Most employees with work-related symptoms reported that their symptoms improved after renovation efforts on the second floor were completed. More than one third of the employees interviewed felt that management was not adequately communicating to employees what was being done to evaluate and resolve potential health hazards in the workplace. A review of medical records from six employees found four employees with work-related symptoms that had begun or significantly worsened in April or May 2010. At that time, the building was undergoing renovations. Three of these four were diagnosed with an allergic illness exacerbated by working in the health clinic building. Records showed that the symptoms of these three employees had improved by their last medical visit. We recommended that management maintain acceptable IEQ practices during renovation projects such as sealing off areas of the building that are being renovated. Management should also inform employees in advance about any remediation efforts, and track and promptly investigate any work-related complaints or problems reported by employees.
Indoor-air-pollution; Indoor-environmental-quality; Organic-compounds; Organic-vapors; Oxides; Dioxides; Volatiles; Temperature-measurement; Relative-humidity; Air-quality-measurement; Ventilation-systems; Heating-systems; Air-conditioning-equipment; Air-flow; Air-monitoring; Exposure-assessment; Exposure-levels; Exposure-limits; Health-surveys; Molds; Microorganisms; Allergic-reactions; Allergies; Allergens; Health-care-facilities; Health-care-personnel; Author Keywords: All other outpatient care centers; IEQ; carbon dioxide; temperature; relative humidity; ventilation; mold; health clinic; allergy symptoms
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Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: July 30, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division