Every employer bears a fundamental obligation to make a safe work environment for all employees. Sometimes, that promise isn’t kept. For office workers, ventilation problems can mean everyone is put at risk of chronic workplace lung diseases or systemic illness. When that happens, the employer is required by the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law to pay to make everything right again.
Pennsylvania has a temperate climate, which is delightful for many reasons—but the climate also increases the risks for some office workers. Hot summers and cold winters means most offices will rely on closed ventilation systems, the perfect way to distribute mold and fungi throughout the workplace. That’s also a recipe for serious health problems.
Toxic mold in your office air ducts
Mold spores are everywhere, and there are hundreds of varieties. Most types pose no significant risks to human health. A few, however, produce small amounts of chemicals called mycotoxins that are poisonous to humans. Even then, most people will not suffer critical illness from exposure, because the quantities are so small.
The danger is when humidity and moisture allow certain molds to flourish, and some office ventilation systems are perfectly suited to the growth of mold. When mold particles, spores, and byproducts are spread throughout the office, some people who are unusually sensitive may develop life-threatening illness. Even other workers who are more resistant may develop persistent medical problems over time.
About ten years ago, the Institute of Medicine issued a report linking mold contaminants from indoor air to human health problems. Normally healthy people, the report said, could experience severe cold-like symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and runny noses. Other susceptible people might experience episodes of asthma, pneumonia, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The risks were worse for people with compromised immune systems. A 2009 World Health Organization study confirmed many of these findings.
Subsequently, much of the blame has been placed on the mold species Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as Stachybotrys atra), a dark-green to black mold that can grow well in office and home environments. Mold particles and spores can be distributed by the office ventilation system. Workers inhale those airborne particles, and may then develop serious symptoms including:
- Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
- Sinus infections
- Lung congestion
- Breathing difficulties
How a lawyer can be an essential part of your recovery process
Because mold particles and spores are invisible to the naked eye, your office manager or the company’s insurance carrier may resist paying for your legitimate medical expenses if you are sickened by toxic mold in your workplace. That’s when you need to call in an experienced Harrisburg workers’ compensation attorney from Schmidt Kramer. We can point the way to obtaining expert medical testimony to show that your illness was job-related and thus deserving of coverage.
Call us at (717) 888-8888 toll-free to get your questions answered, to schedule a free, confidential case review, or to obtain a FREE copy of our informative report, Who Pays the Bills When You Are Injured at Work?