In response to symptom complaints of unionized workers, a government labour department ordered a symptoms survey of occupants at a large courthouse building contaminated with mold. The analysis and results of the survey were time sensitive in order to decide whether the building should remain open or closed during remediation.
The English version of the Swedish MM-040-EA Indoor Climate Work Environment questionnaire along with four item asthma screening questionnaire developed by Venable et at., were selected as investigation instruments. A one page, two sided survey was distributed to 288 occupants and 82.9% responded within a one week deadline.
Relative risk rations were calculated comparing respondents’ symptom prevalence with published data for buildings without air quality problems. Relative risk ratios exceeded 5.00 for cough, throat and skin symptoms experienced on at least a weekly basis. One third (76) of the respondents satisfied a NIOSH “sick building syndrome” symptom case definition. Even more (94) screened positive to the asthma screening questions, 60 of whom reported never having been diagnosed with asthma. Comments written on the survey form indicated aggravation of pre-existing asthma and recent diagnosis of new onset asthma.
The results presented within 8 days of the survey response deadline. These survey instruments performed very well and were easily analysed in a very short time frame. It is an effective tool for validating building occupants’ concerns and supplements the traditional technical aspects of an IAQ evaluation. These surveys are recommended to hygienists in similar situations facing tight deadlines.