Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality.Anecdote

I have had my own experience with indoor air quality. In college, when I worked at a supermarket as a deli associate, I encountered safety hazards that would horrify most people. At one point, there was a continuous water leak behind the counter in the area where deli workers cut their meats. For at least 2 weeks, my coworkers and I were walking in puddles of water while providing customers with food. We would frequently mop the ground. The extent of dirty water that was on the floor was enough to go in my shoes sometimes. There was moisture and high humidity. This was an environment where mold and bacteria festered. My coworker later experienced a stroke while on the job. This was certainly not an environment where people would want to purchase deli meats from.

Sick Building Syndrome

Cleaning up spills and reporting leaks helps to improve indoor air impurities. Indoor air quality is reasonably a concern for many Americans. We deal with pollution on the road, but do we have to deal with it in our workplaces? There are standards in place to regulate the quality of indoor air, set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and state law, but they may be ignored. Public sector workers in New Jersey are provided with more oversight and regulation of indoor air quality than private sector workers.[1] If you inhale pollutants, you may want to look out for issues such as “fatigue, trouble concentrating, headaches, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.”[2]

A blanket term is used in this respect, “sick building syndrome”, in which the occupants of a building experience health or comfort-related effects linked to being inside the building.[3]

Harmful Chemicals

Some of your symptoms may occur during work and not outside of work.[4] If so, this is a red flag and should lead you to consider speaking with your supervisor or your human resources department. Indoor air pollution can come from harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide. Hazardous workplace substance include:

  • Asbestos
  • Acids
  • Caustic substances
  • Disinfectants
  • Glues
  • Heavy metals such as mercury, lead and aluminum
  • Paint
  • Pesticides
  • Petroleum
  • Solvents such as formaldehyde, benzene, and chloroform.[5]

Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

It is important to identify whether you work with substances like these, or whether it is due to different reasons, such as poor ventilation, or heating and air conditioning units that do not meet ventilation codes.[6] Illnesses and issues that may be a result of poor indoor air quality are as follows:

  • Humidifier fever
  • Legionnaires’ disease
  • Nosocomial infections such as urinary tract infection, tuberculosis, and pneumonia[7][8]
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Personality changes
  • Edema
  • Palpitations
  • Nosebleeds
  • Pregnancy problems
  • Miscarriages
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rashes such as dermatitis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer[9]

Quality of Your Workspace

In addition to this, there are further aspects that can affect indoor quality, such as poor lighting and the absence of sunlight. Sunlight is important for serotonin and Vitamin D. Inadequate acoustics, caused by a lack of sound absorbing materials, can be a concern in workplaces with lots of noise. It is also important for an employer to assess whether their workplace provides good ergonomics. Ergonomic hazards include poor posture caused by chairs not fitted for the person. They also include frequent vibration, and frequent awkward movements, which could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. This is to the detriment of the worker and employer, as it may lead to poorer productivity. [10] [11]

Case Example

One of the cases we prosecuted involved an 85-year-old man who worked for Dow Chemical for over 50 years. During his employment, he was exposed to a chemical called ortho-Tuluidine.  The indoor air quality over this period caused him bladder cancer. His bladder had to be removed, and he must carry an ostomy bag for the rest of his life. The firm secured him a lump sum settlement of $120,000, as well as continued paid-for coverage of future medical treatment, including chemotherapy.[12]

If you have reason to believe that your symptoms may be work-related, your most reliable way of obtaining relief is to file a workers’ compensation claim with a trusted workers’ compensation attorney.

[1]  Anonymous. “Workplace Health and Safety.” Department of Health | Workplace Health and Safety | New Jersey Indoor Air Quality Standard (N.J.A.C. 12:100-13), State of New Jersey, www.state.nj.us/health/workplacehealthandsafety/peosh/peosh-health-standards/iaq.shtml#:~:text=The%20New%20Jersey%20Indoor%20Air,quality%20standards%20in%20the%20U.S.

[2] Batisto, Rebecca. “Pollution And Workers’ Compensation: How To Avoid A Claim.” Normandy Insurance Company, Normandy Insurance Company, 26 Sept. 2019, www.normandyins.com/blog/2019-09-26-pollution-and-workers-compensation-how-to-avoid-a-claim.

[3] Joshi S. M. (2008). The sick building syndrome. Indian journal of occupational and environmental medicine12(2), 61–64. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5278.43262

[4] Batisto, Rebecca. “Pollution And Workers’ Compensation: How To Avoid A Claim.” Normandy Insurance Company, Normandy Insurance Company, 26 Sept. 2019, www.normandyins.com/blog/2019-09-26-pollution-and-workers-compensation-how-to-avoid-a-claim.

[5] Department of Health & Human Services. “Workplace Safety – Hazardous Substances.” Better Health Channel, Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia, 30 Sept. 2011, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/workplace-safety-hazardous-substances.

[6] Joshi S. M. (2008). The sick building syndrome. Indian journal of occupational and environmental medicine12(2), 61–64. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5278.43262

[7]Anonymous. “Workplace Health and Safety.” Department of Health | Workplace Health and Safety | New Jersey Indoor Air Quality Standard (N.J.A.C. 12:100-13), State of New Jersey, www.state.nj.us/health/workplacehealthandsafety/peosh/peosh-health-standards/iaq.shtml#:~:text=The%20New%20Jersey%20Indoor%20Air,quality%20standards%20in%20the%20U.S.

[8] Anonymous. “Boundless Microbiology.” Lumen, Lumencandela, courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-microbiology/chapter/nosocomial-infections/.

[9] Joshi S. M. (2008). The sick building syndrome. Indian journal of occupational and environmental medicine12(2), 61–64. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5278.43262

[10] “Workplace Hazards Series: Ergonomic Hazards.” SafetyLine, Tsunami Solutions Ltd., 14AD, safetylineloneworker.com/blog/workplace-hazards-series-ergonomics.

[11] Joshi S. M. (2008). The sick building syndrome. Indian journal of occupational and environmental medicine12(2), 61–64. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5278.43262

[12] “Case Results.” Livingston DiMarzio, LLP, The Workplace Lawyers, LIVINGSTON DIMARZIO, LLP, 18 Mar. 2020, www.workplacelawyers.com/case-results/.

WorkplaceLawyers.com is the website for the workers compensation attorneys firm of Livingston, DiMarzio LLP Our team of attorneys is made up of New Jersey Mesothelioma Lawyers, NJ Workers Comp Lawyers, Employment Lawyers and Certified New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Attorneys.