Prevent Aspergillus mold and marijuana fumes from affecting indoor air quality in law enforcement evidence rooms by using fume extraction systems.
On television shows such as CSI and Law & Order, depiction of police evidence rooms seems to fall into one of two categories: a disheveled place, piled high with jumbled boxes and files, or a highly sophisticated orderly vault, outfitted with the highest form of technical gadgetry for recording contents of evidence and seizure. Both versions are correct to varying degrees, ultimately dependent on the management in charge of their organization.
Property rooms or evidence rooms are secure areas, typically in a police station, used to store seized or stolen property and criminal evidence until the items can be returned to their rightful owners or used in court as matters of proof. Evidence includes items such as weapons, keys, money, personal objects, prescription and illicit drugs. Many of these items will be returned to their owners, destroyed or auctioned off. Evidence, of course, will be maintained for investigations and legal proceedings until a case is closed. The sophistication and organization of each department’s evidence room varies. Regardless of whether property or evidence is stored in boxes or bins, in envelopes or plastic bags, one thing is certain: each article tells a story and contains clues that can potentially exonerate or indict a suspect.
But what about the people who work with the evidence or seized property? Law enforcement personnel are often considered safe if they are off the streets and protected within the walls of their own department. But that’s not always the case.
Evidence handling comes with it’s own set of risks. When the indoor environmental air quality is compromised, law enforcement evidence room workers can feel the effects.
Police evidence rooms and property rooms are often set apart from the more modernized public spaces in law enforcement buildings. Basements and rooms or offices that are unappealing work spaces often end up as the real estate relegated for evidence storage. It is not uncommon that these spaces are windowless, with poor ventilation and air quality – a bad combination when you consider the types of objects being stored. Boxes and bags of biological evidence – from illegal substances to prescription narcotics – are housed in the same enclosed space. This leaves the breathing zone for personnel who work nearby, potentially at risk. (1)
Air quality in law enforcement property rooms – specifically drug storage areas – is a critical concern due to the fact that decaying plant material (particularly when stored in plastic) provides the ideal environment for unhealthy growth of organisms – like mold. (2)
Without proper air flow and clean air exchange, evidence room employees are exposed to potential environmental risks such as airborne toxic fumes, mold, particles, dust and other contaminants. But the main inhalant to fear and one that is commonly found in evidence rooms is Aspergillus. Aspergillus is a mold that can grow on any biological item but is particularly fond of marijuana plants, a drug commonly found in evidence and property rooms in law enforcement organizations. (3) Even when workers are diligent in their evidence prep, like when they dry the seized drugs to remove as much moisture as possible to ward off potential mold growth, pot plants still leave behind residual moisture of roughly 10-15% which is more than enough to cultivate Aspergillus.
When evidence officers handle evidentiary marijuana, they can inhale imperceptible mold fumes via their eyes, nose and throat, often causing headache, itchy burning eyes, sore throat, sleepiness and memory problems. Respiratory ailments such as congestion, wheezing and lung damage are also common among these workers. And while most persons exposed to Aspergillus spores do not necessarily contract a disease, the ailments they suffer from are unpleasant and sometimes incapacitating. Workers at greatest risk of negative health effects are those with existing allergies and respiratory conditions or a weakened immune system. (4) In fact, close to 20% of asthma patients may develop allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis due to exposure to Aspergillus mold. Untreated cases can lead to permanent lung damage. (1)
Molds and fungi are found everywhere – indoors and out – all year long. But those who collect and handle evidence and property in law enforcement storage rooms needn’t suffer from the ill effects of poor indoor air quality. Air cleaning and filtration systems, in addition to tightly monitored storage practices, can and should keep law enforcement workers breathing freely.
At Air Systems Inc., we serve our customers in the law enforcement industry who wish to protect their police officers and evidence room employees by identifying areas of potential risk. We provide indoor air quality management solutions in addition to supplying them with stellar IAQ products that will ventilate and remove noxious fumes so that toxic fume inhalation and illnesses such as Aspergillus mold inhalation cannot occur. Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists.