Conn Med. 2005 Jan;69(1):9-17.  

Work-related asthma in teachers in Connecticut: association with chronic water damage and fungal growth in schools

Dangman KH, Bracker AL, Storey E.

Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center, MC 6210, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06030, USA.

PURPOSE: To review a series of 55 teachers from schools in Connecticut who presented consecutively to our clinic, and to summarize our clinical experience with work-related disease in this population, which could lead to a more formal study. METHODS: Retrospective chart review; data were abstracted concerning clinical and environmental factors and entered into a statistical spreadsheet program (JMP for Windows). RESULTS: Of the 55 educators, 22 were diagnosed with upper respiratory syndromes (rhinitis or sinusitis), three with bronchitis, and 23 with asthma. Of the 23 with asthma, 20 presented with active or symptomatic asthma, and seven of these were incident cases of occupational asthma. In addition, four cases (7%) of granulomatous lung disease (two hypersensitivity pneumonitis and two sarcoidosis) were diagnosed. Finally, three patients (5%) received only nonrespiratory diagnoses (panic disorder, sicca syndrome, and vertigo). In 33 work-places, the exposures of concern were predominantly related to ongoing "dampness" or visible mold growth. The remaining 22 work-places were "dry." Symptoms varied according to the work-place environment, with more patients from water damaged (vs dry) work-places having upper respiratory symptoms (76% vs 45%) and asthma (45% vs 23%). All seven patients with incident asthma and all four patients with interstitial lung disease worked in schools with documented water incursion. CONCLUSIONS: Work-place exposures in water damaged school buildings are risk factors for development of work-related lower respiratory disease in schoolteachers and staff. Identification of such high-risk environments can be done by a simple but thorough qualitative evaluation during a walk-through inspection, and it should not require air sampling or surface sampling protocols for microbial contaminants.

PMID: 15736369 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]