Environmental risk factors and work-related lower respiratory symptoms in 80 office buildings: An exploratory analysis of NIOSH data

Authors

  • Mark J. Mendell PhD, MPH,

    Corresponding author
    1. Indoor Environment Department, Environmental Energy Technologies Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California
    • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 1 Cyclotron Road, MS 90-3058, Berkeley, CA 94720.
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  • Gina M. Naco MPH,

    1. Indoor Environment Department, Environmental Energy Technologies Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California
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  • Thomas G. Wilcox MD,

    1. Office of Field Programs, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Rockville, MD
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  • W. Karl Sieber PhD

    1. Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Surveys, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Cincinnati, OH
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  • Institute at which work was performed: Data collection, analysis, and most of the production of this manuscript were performed while all authors were with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Cincinnati, OH.

  • This article is a US Government work and as such is in the public domain in the United States of America.

Abstract

Background

We evaluated relationships between lower respiratory symptoms and risk factors for microbiological contamination in office buildings.

Methods

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health collected data from 80 office buildings during standardized indoor environmental health hazard evaluations. Present analyses included lower respiratory symptom-based outcome definitions and risk factors for potential microbiologic contamination. Multivariate logistic regression models for selected outcomes identified key risk factors.

Results

Adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) for “at least three of four work-related lower respiratory symptoms” were, for debris in ventilation air intake, 2.0 (1.0–3.9), and for poor drainage in air-conditioning drip pans, 2.6 (1.3–5.2). Adjusted associations with risk factors were consistently stronger for outcomes requiring both multiple symptoms and improvement away from work, and somewhat stronger among diagnosed asthmatics.

Conclusions

Moisture and debris in ventilation systems, possibly by supporting microbiologic growth, may increase adverse respiratory effects, particularly among asthmatics. Data from more representative buildings are needed to confirm these findings. Am. J. Ind. Med. 43:630–641, 2003. Published 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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