NIOSH Addresses Poor IEQ in a Medical Examiner's Office

Published July 17, 2013

During a health hazard evaluation (HHE) of a medical examiner’s office, NIOSH staff found that poor indoor environmental quality (IEQ) conditions such as mold and water incursion could be related to employees’ respiratory problems. NIOSH investigators evaluated exposures to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mold, airborne particles, formaldehyde, and fiberglass throughout the building—in the autopsy suite, histology laboratory, and toxicology lab. They found that exposures to VOCs and formaldehyde were below occupational exposure limits, and samples showed that few intact fiberglass fibers were present on surfaces.

However, chronic water damage was found throughout the building and mold growth and deteriorating lining were found in the ductwork—conditions that could be contributing to employees’ respiratory symptoms. NIOSH reported that high relative humidity, deficiencies in the building’s HVAC system, and use of latex gloves may also be contributing factors to employees’ health problems, including respiratory irritation, allergies, asthma, and nasal congestion. The agency’s findings are published in a recently released HHE report.

NIOSH made several recommendations to improve IEQ in the medical examiner’s office, including repairing all points of water incursion in the building, removing all mold contamination, and improving the operation and maintenance of the HVAC systems. The agency also suggested that the employer establish an IEQ management program.

View the HHE report. More NIOSH HHE reports are available on the agency’s website.