Students and staff at a college in Portland, Ore., have reported negative health effects from occupying a 90-year-old building on campus that does not have proper air filtration system, according to CBS affiliate KOIN.
The East Hall, the building that is supposedly causing people to become ill, was built in 1925 as an apartment complex before being used by Portland State University. Jady Bates, department manager in applied linguistics at PSU, is one of about 80 other people who have worked inside the building. As the building is older, it has no air conditioning and relies on windows primarily for ventilation. It is also heated by steam.
Bates said she experiences migraines, which progressively became worse after her office was relocated from the first floor to the second. She did not know the cause of her migraines until another staff member noted other people were also becoming ill in the building. Bates was surprised when the co-worker suggested her migraines might be due to her work conditions. Poor ventilation could be a cause for the health effects reported by PSU employees due to improper air circulation and the accumulation of air impurities.
OSHA highlights health effects of poor indoor air quality
Indoor air quality is a concern for the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, as it can affect the health and well-being of those who choose to occupy improperly ventilated buildings. Air pollutants and impurities such as dust and mold can be hazardous to employees in schools and other institutional structures. OSHA described workers exposed to poor indoor air quality as having symptoms associated with allergies, stress or colds. These symptoms include dizziness, rashes and even headaches.
Scott Gallagher, spokesperson at PSU, said he knows about staff concerns surrounding the building.
“We’ve heard complaints regarding the air quality for about the last year-and-a-half from 10 to 15 faculty and staff in that building,” Gallagher told KOIN.
In 2012, PSU contacted worker’s compensation insurance agency SAIF to test the East Hall’s air quality. Gallagher said the tests did not find any harmful substances that could affect the workers’ health. However, while the tests did not find conclusive evidence, he said the university is still concerned.
“We’ve seen indoor air quality in the last 30 years really move away from the idea that we can sample and detect everything and it will immediately tell us what’s going on,” said Dede Montgomey with Oregon State Health and Science’s Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology. “Sometimes it does. You’re lucky when it does.”
To address the staff’s fears and improve the air quality of the building, PSU installed an air filtration system. Bates said the air filter did help alleviate her migraines. She also said she has experienced long-term health issues even after her transfer to another campus building. In its document on indoor air quality, OSHA confirmed employees could continue to report the effects of indoor air pollutants for years after exposure. Air cleaners are an effective solution to help reduce the risk of long-term health problems that employees might face due to poor ventilation and air quality.
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