NIOSH Evaluates IEQ, Health Concerns in an Elementary School

Published December 16, 2015

NIOSH staff recently performed a health hazard evaluation of a public elementary school in response to employee concerns about potential exposure to mold in the building. Some employees of the school reported recurring upper respiratory and sinus infections and throat and eye irritation that they believed to be caused by exposures in their work environment. NIOSH’s evaluation revealed no evidence of a current mold problem in the school, but the agency did find inadequate ventilation in classrooms. According to the HHE report, “some classroom unit ventilators did not work, had incorrectly installed or missing air filters, or were partially or completely blocked.” Further, high carbon dioxide levels in some classrooms indicated that some unit ventilators did not provide enough outdoor air to maintain acceptable ventilation.

NIOSH recommends making renovation of the school’s ventilation systems a “top priority,” beginning with a comprehensive assessment by a licensed professional mechanical engineer with experience in the design of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems for educational environments. The agency also urges the school to encourage employees with health concerns to seek evaluation and care from a physician who is residency trained and board certified in occupational medicine.

“Many of the symptoms employees reported, such as sinus problems and headaches, have been associated with damp buildings or inadequate ventilation but are common in the general population,” the NIOSH report reads. “We found no evidence that the health problems reported by some staff, such as neuropathy, thrush, and cancer, among other things, were related to working in the school.”

For more information, see the full report.