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NIOSH Alert on Occupational Respiratory Disease

In November of 2012, the CDC reported that a NIOSH alert had been released. The alert was intended to raise attention about preventing occupational respiratory disease, which can occur as a result of dampness in buildings.

Our Boston work injury attorneys encourage every employer to review the NIOSH alert and to take proper precautions to ensure that buildings are safe. Workers should not be in danger of developing respiratory problems as a result of unsafe conditions in the workplace, and those who do develop respiratory problems should file a workers’ compensation claim to cover their losses. 1362156_bali_textures.jpg

The NIOSH Alert and Occupational Injury
According to the CDC, NIOSH released their alert because buildings can develop dampness and moisture problems, which in turn can cause workers to develop respiratory issues.

The buildings that NIOSH specifically targeted in its alert include:

  • Office Buildings
  • Schools
  • Non-Industrial buildings

The causes of moisture and dampness in these buildings, according to the alert, can include high humidity indoors; leaks in the roof and windows; and floods, among other potential problems. Whatever the reason, NIOSH defines “dampness” in a building as the presence of excessive and undesirable moisture within the space.

The moisture itself is not the only major concern. Rather it is the consequences of the dampness that NIOSH focuses on. In their alert, for instance, they indicate that building materials can break down as a result of the dampness. Mold, bacteria and fungi are also more likely to grow in a damp environment while volatile organic compounds are likely to break down as well.

When a building is damp and mold and fungus or bacteria begins to grow as a result, this can create serious indoor air quality problems. The extent of the problems and the health risk can depend, to some extent, on the type of mold and bacteria that develop. NIOSH indicates that there are more than 1,000 different species of mold that can grow at different moisture levels. Some types of mold, such as black mold, can be toxic or even deadly.

Of course, there is no good mold, mildew or bacteria growing in these buildings. Mold spores, bacteria and other unwanted organisms can spread throughout a building through the HVAC system, and can be breathed in by workers in the building.

As a result, workers within damp environments may develop a variety of medical problems including asthma, respiratory infection, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, bronchitis, and respiratory infections, among other issues. Those who already have asthma or a respiratory condition will likely see their medical issues worsen as a result of exposure.

NIOSH encourages acting quickly to prevent problems caused by dampness. Workers who have developed respiratory problems as a result of work in damp buildings may also take action. Workers in such cases should be eligible to make a workers’ compensation claim to obtain benefits including payment of medical costs for treatment of any respiratory problems or illnesses they develop.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a work accident in the Greater Boston area, contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC for a free consultation. Call 1-877-617-5333.