Environmental Risk Factors and Work-Related Lower Respiratory Symptoms in 80 Office Buildings: An Exploratory Analysis of NIOSH Data
Background: We evaluated relationships between lower respiratory symptoms and risk factors for microbiological contamination in office buildings.
Methods: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health collected data from 80 office buildings during standardized indoor environmental health hazard evaluations. Present analyses included lower respiratory symptom-based outcome definitions and risk factors for potential microbiologic contamination. Multivariate logistic regression models for selected outcomes identified key risk factors.
Results: Adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) for "at least three of four work-related lower respiratory symptoms" were, for debris in ventilation air intake, 2.0 (1.0- 3.9), and for poor drainage in air-conditioning drip pans, 2.6 (1.3-5.2). Adjusted associations with risk factors were consistently stronger for outcomes requiring both multiple symptoms and improvement away from work, and somewhat stronger among diagnosed asthmatics.
Conclusions: Moisture and debris in ventilation systems, possibly by supporting microbiologic growth, may increase adverse respiratory effects, particularly among asthmatics. Data from more representative buildings are needed to confirm these findings.