RALEIGH, N.C. – When it opened in November 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency’s campus in Research Triangle Park, N.C., was touted as a state-of-the-art facility.
It contains more than a million square feet of labs and offices, where some of the top researchers in the U.S. work to improve the quality of the nation’s air, water and land. But there’s one problem nobody at EPA has been able to solve: Air pollution in the EPA’s own offices is making staffers sick.
An investigation by WRAL-TV in conjunction with the Investigative Reporting Workshop, found that soon after the building opened, EPA employees began complaining that contaminated air was causing a range of health problems, among them, asthma, shortness of breath and eye trouble. Although the agency has taken numerous actions to try to fix the situation, some staffers say it is still risky for them to go to work — and have had to get permission to telecommute from home. Others continue to work in the affected building, but believe their health is suffering.
“You’re having throat problems. Your eyes are watering. You’re having, possibly, difficult breathing,” said Silvia Saracco, the president of the union that represents many of those workers. “They want to come to work. They want to do their jobs. And their health is being negatively affected. They’re having a hard time breathing.”
A report done in 2009, written by an EPA contractor and obtained by the Investigative Reporting Workshop, highlights years of problems dating back to 2003. At that time, laboratory staff reported “excessive indoor particulate levels,” i.e., toxic dust, some of which was contaminated with metals. Since then, the report noted, workers in two buildings reported symptoms, including coughs, eye irritation and chest pain with inhalation after a “dump” of particulate matter occurred. “Some individuals had persistent symptoms for many days prior to eventual resolution, and some had symptoms recur when they tried to return to their usual laboratories,” the report said.
The study focused chiefly on Building-B, which consists of laboratories and office space. It concluded that the complex did not have “Sick Building Syndrome,” but acknowledged that some workers were likely suffering from “Building-Related Symptoms.” The report also called for additional sampling of indoor air contaminants.
EPA employees interviewed by the WRAL and the Workshop asked not to be named, for fear of retaliation by EPA officials. One said it’s still common for small pieces of rusted metal to fall out of the air and land on computer keyboards. Surfaces in labs and offices often look like they have a thick coating of dust. It isn’t typical office dust, however. Tests showed the presence of metal and glass fragments that were not found in the air outside of the buildings.
Inside, the air has been so bad that electrical components of some lab equipment have corroded. The damaged equipment was fixed quickly, but the cause of toxic particulates contaminating the equipment remained elusive.
Thank You National Apartment Association. I will do my best to get this very important information out ASAP to numerous owners, investors, huge property management companies (e.g., Riverstone Residential), attorneys, and judges, AND, of course, to the MANY people who are currently living in MOLD-INFESTED APARTMENT COMPLEXES right now! katy
“Changes in construction methods have caused US buildings to become perfect petri dishes for mold and bacteria to flourish when water is added. Instead of warning the public and teaching physicians that the buildings were causing illness; in 2003 the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, a think-tank, and a workers comp physician trade organization mass marketed an unscientific nonsequitor to the courts to disclaim the adverse health effects to stave off liability for financial stakeholders of moldy buildings. Although publicly exposed many times over the years, the deceit lingers in US courts to this very day.”