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Do you work in a sick building?

If you cough, sneeze, feel dizzy or have watery eyes or aching muscles every time you go to work in Louisiana, your building may be causing your symptoms. Per the Environmental Protection Agency, there really is such a thing as a sick building.

Sick buildings result from one or more of the following:

  • Inadequate ventilation
  • Biological contaminants
  • Indoor chemical contaminants
  • Outdoor chemical contaminants

Inadequate ventilation

By law, your building’s ventilation system must provide you with a minimum of five cubic feet of outdoor air per occupant per minute. Depending, however, on the number of people who work in your building and the types of work they perform there, this may be far too little fresh air. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers recently updated its own standards, increasing the requirements to 15 cfm for most buildings, 20 cfm for office spaces, and up to 60 cfm in specialized areas such as designated smoking areas or areas in which the work involves or produces fumes, smoke or dust.

Biological contaminants

Many buildings expose their occupants to such things as viruses, molds, pollen and bacteria on a daily basis. If your building’s air ducts, ceiling tiles, drain pans, carpeting, insulation and other surfaces become damp, biological contaminants can breed, causing a myriad of symptoms in the people who work there. Even such innocuous things as the bird droppings you and your co-workers inadvertently track in on the soles and heels of your footwear can introduce biological contaminants onto floors and carpeting.

Indoor chemical contaminants

Many things in your building can off-gas chemical contaminants, including the following:

  • Carpeting
  • Upholstery
  • Copy machines
  • Manufactured wood products
  • Adhesives
  • Cleaning agents

The volatile organic compounds these materials and products put into the air you breathe can cause you and your co-workers to have acute reactions. In addition, some of these VOCs are known carcinogens.

Outdoor chemical contaminants

Your building’s doors and windows allow additional chemical contaminants into your work area from such sources as vehicle exhausts, landscaping or ill-placed plumbing vents and air exhausts in nearby buildings. Even if your building’s windows do not open, its air intake vents may not be adequate to remove these pollutants as they enter.

Your employer must provide you with a safe and healthy workplace. If your symptoms persist even after you bring them to the attention of your boss or supervisor, you may have a workers’ compensation claim. This is general information only and not intended to provide legal advice.

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Law Office of John W. Redmann, LLC
1101 Westbank Expressway
Gretna, LA 70053

Phone: 504-433-5550
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