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Keywords:

  • Building-related asthma;
  • Indoor environmental quality;
  • Mold;
  • Ergosterol;
  • Healthcare workers;
  • Dampness

Abstract  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health investigated respiratory symptoms and asthma in relation to damp indoor environments in employees of two hospitals. A cluster of six work-related asthma cases from one hospital department, whose symptoms arose during a time of significant water incursions, led us to conduct a survey of respiratory health in 1171/1834 employees working in the sentinel cases hospital and a nearby hospital without known indoor environmental concerns. We carried out observational assessment of dampness, air, chair, and floor dust sampling for biological contaminants, and investigation of exposure-response associations for about 500 participants. Many participants with post-hire onset asthma reported diagnosis dates in a period of water incursions and renovations. Post-hire asthma and work-related lower respiratory symptoms were positively associated with the dampness score. Work-related lower respiratory symptoms showed monotonically increasing odds ratios with ergosterol, a marker of fungal biomass. Other fungal and bacterial indices, particle counts, cat allergen and latex allergen were associated with respiratory symptoms. Our data imply new-onset of asthma in relation to water damage, and indicate that work-related respiratory symptoms in hospital workers may be associated with diverse biological contaminants.