Investigation of a Breast Cancer Cluster in an Office Building

Home » Case Study, Indoor Environmental Quality
30 October 2008

The Phylmar Group, Inc.

The Phylmar Group, Inc. was retained by a major clothing manufacturer to investigate a cluster of seven breast cancer cases in an office complex as part of an indoor environmental quality evaluation. Walkthrough surveys were conducted in the buildings. Facility maintenance personnel were interviewed, and records were examined to understand operation and maintenance procedures used in the buildings. Employee interviews were conducted to obtain an understanding of potential environmental agents in the work areas, work practices, and specific symptoms. Material safety data sheets for chemicals and products were reviewed. A review of historical indoor air quality monitoring data for the buildings was performed. Building maintenance operation and maintenance procedures were also reviewed. Employee concerns included a perceived excess of breast cancer cases, and increased incidence of respiratory illnesses, allergies, and poor water quality. An industrial hygiene monitoring plan was developed using the information generated based on the walkthrough surveys, discussions with facility personnel and employees, and the document review. The monitoring plan included sampling for carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, total hydrocarbons, particulates, formaldehyde, and ozone. In addition, an electromagnetic field survey was also conducted. No sources of environmental agents associated with breast cancer (i.e., radiation) were noted during the building walkthrough surveys. The sampling results were less than or consistent with historic levels, and no health standards were exceeded for any monitored agents. A series of meetings were held with employees to discuss the sampling results and the epidemiological significance of the findings.

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