Health risks of mold in the workplace
If mold of any type is discovered in a workplace, it is a potential health risk to employees and should be removed as soon as possible.
According to NIOSH, the following health conditions are associated with mold exposure:
- Allergies: Symptoms include sneezing; irritation of the nose, mouth or throat; nasal stuffiness and runny nose; and red, itchy or watery eyes. For employees who already have allergies, mold can trigger asthma-related symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing.
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis: HP is lung inflammation that occurs in people who develop immune system sensitization to inhaled organic dust. It can be mistaken for pneumonia, but cannot be treated with antibiotics. With continued exposure, the persistent lung inflammation may cause permanent damage.
- Asthma: With this lung disease, the airways develop inflammation in response to sensitizing or irritating exposure. Asthma sufferers may experience shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness and wheezing.
If employees suspect workplace exposure to mold is affecting their health, NIOSH advises them to immediately report all concerns to their supervisor, visit their doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment, and ask their doctor whether they should be medically restricted from the work environment.
NIOSH states that excess moisture usually is the cause of indoor mold growth. If supervisors suspect mold is causing health problems among their employees, they should:
- Regularly inspect buildings for dampness.
- Prevent high indoor humidity with HVAC systems.
- Always respond when employees report health concerns.
- Establish procedures for recording and responding to indoor air quality complaints.
- Develop a plan for response and perform remedial action.
- Follow up to ensure corrective action has been successful.
- Encourage employees who have developed persistent or worsening respiratory symptoms to see a health care provider.
- Follow health care provider recommendations for relocation of employees diagnosed with building-related respiratory disease.