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Building Health Sciences - Healthy buildings, healthy people, healthy business

The Unlikely Nuisance Odor Source


During the work activities for a well-managed, off-hours, highly-publicized, ductwork sound liner remediation program in an office building, an odor caused an early morning panic among the arriving employees which rapidly escalated throughout the morning. Finally, senior management declared an emergency, called for an on-site mobile medical unit to respond and treat fifty evacuees from the affected section of the work space. The remediation contractors and all parties involved in that effort were alerted.


Building Health Sciences responded to this emergency on behalf of the building manager, under whose oversight the work was being performed.After immediate investigation by our medical doctors, who had been on site during the remediation work itself along with various owner and tenant representatives, it was determined that the remediation work was neither responsible nor associated with the "dangerous" odor. It was determined, and satisfactorily recognized by all parties, that the source of the odor was a new, off-gassing, naugahyde couch, just delivered to the most senior manager’s office. Based on the layout of the HVAC system, the off-gassing VOCs were pulled into the re-circulating air system and distributed throughout the adjacent offices.

Lessons Learned

Indoor environmental and air quality is a collaborative effort among the building owner, tenants and occupants. Each has a responsibility to understand respective contributions potential – both positive and negative.