How to Avoid a ‘Sick’ Office Building

January 11, 2013 - The NIOSH issued a warning that occupants in damp office buildings, schools and other structures can develop a range of respiratory problems if damp conditions are not properly corrected. The NIOSH also offered a list of ways to prevent those illnesses by taking preventative measures.

Buildings can develop excessive moisture due to roof and window leaks, high indoor humidity levels, flooding and improper HVAC systems. Damp, humid conditions can lead to mold growth, fungi and bacteria, as well as the release of volatile organic compounds and the breakdown of building materials. These contribute to a host of respiratory issues.

The NIOSH offered some key recommendations for building owners and employers:

  • Always respond when health concerns are reported.
  • Regularly inspect building areas such as roofs, ceilings, walls, basements, crawl spaces and slab construction for evidence of dampness
  • Inspect heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and promptly correct problems.
  • Prevent high indoor humidity through the proper design and operation of HVAC systems
  • Dry any porous building materials that have become wet from leaks or flooding within 48 hours
  • Clean and repair or replace any building materials that are moisture-damaged or show evidence of mold growth and follow remediation guidelines
  • Inform occupants that respiratory effects from exposure in damp buildings can occur and implement a response system
  • Encourage occupants who have developed persistent respiratory symptoms to see a healthcare provider
  • Follow recommendations from a healthcare provider for relocation of occupants diagnosed with building-related respiratory disease.
  • Establish an indoor environmental quality team to oversee IEQ. 

Carnow Conibear and Associates is a demonstrated leader in the occupational and environmental health professions since 1975. To find out more, click here or call us at (800) 860-4486.