Project Profile 7 – Occupational Asthma at a Municipal Swimming Pool

A worker at a small municipal recreation facility developed asthma. She believed that the cause of her disease was exposure to airborne chemicals in the swimming pool area where she worked. She filed a claim with the Worker’s Compensation Board.
 
The Board Adjudicator recognized that there was not enough information available to determine if the Worker’s asthma was occupational. Information on the specific chemicals used at the facility was obtained from the employer, but this information was not sufficient to allow for an informed decision. The decision was made to get us involved.
 
We performed a detailed investigation that included:

  • Telephone interviews with the Worker, the Employer, and maintenance staff.
  • Determination of the water treatment methodology and types of chemicals used on site.
  • Detailed research on the nature and behaviour of the specific chemicals generated from the water chlorination process.
  • Sourcing and evaluation of a laboratory methodology for nitrogen trichloride, the chemical we suspected to be causing the Worker’s symptoms.
  • Coordination with an accredited analytical laboratory to adopt our recommended nitrogen trichloride method and prepare appropriate sample media.
  • On-site review and inspection of the ventilation system, water treatment equipment, chemicals and building layout.
  • Air quality monitoring, which included evaluation of general air quality parameters, and evaluation of nitrogen trichloride levels.

 
The cause of the disease was found.  A study published in the European Respiratory Journal has linked specific levels of nitrogen trichloride in the air at swimming pools with occupational asthma. The results of the air quality monitoring performed revealed nitrogen trichloride levels at or above those listed in the study, making it highly plausible that this specific workplace exposure was the cause of the Worker’s disease.
 
The worker was able to relocate to a better work environment.  After reviewing our comprehensive report, the Compensation Board was able to make an informed decision to accept the Worker’s disease as occupational. Finding the likely cause meant that the Worker and the Employer were able to better decide on safe and appropriate future work. Also, the Worker is now aware of and can choose to avoid this specific exposure in the future. All involved benefited from our thorough and detailed approach.
 
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