(KMTR) - Parts of a major building on the Lane Community College (LCC) campus have been closed after dozens of students and staff have gotten sick.
Building 4 hosts the college's popular dental program, but over the last few months, numerous people working in the building have reported having respiratory issues.
Staff members working in Building 4 full-time have been hit the hardest; 26 of them have requested relocation. Their symptoms include trouble breathing, headaches and nervous reactions.
Some students in the dental program told KMTR they thought metals used in the lab were getting people sick, but the school says they've tested some staff for metal poisoning and the test results were negative.
Crews are looking into the building's ventilation system.
“Last week we discovered that there was very likely some water intrusion in the fresh air intake system in the building,” says Dennis Carr, Lane’s Chief Human Resource Officer. Carr says crews came on President’s Day to start investigating the issue. “We took advantage of the holiday yesterday. We cut some holes in some of the duct work in order to assess and analyze whether there is water intrusion and just how significant it is.”
Carr says they're still waiting for the results from those tests to see if mold might be causing the illness. Building 4 has a long history of air quality problems. It went through a major remodel in 2010 where the entire ventilation system was replaced.
Though some of the building remains open for classes, the dental lab has been shut down for the remainder of the term. The school is doing what they can to help students in the dental program to complete the term.
"We’ve identified several clinics - dental clinics - and dental service locations locally where students can continue their instruction,” says Carr. “This is the seventh week in the term. It's very difficult because they need to complete their instruction this term. So, thanks to our faculty, we've identified some alternative instructional settings where the dental assisting and dental hygiene students can complete this term."
Carr says White Bird is one of the clinics offering space for the students, as well as a few other local dentist offices. LCC has three dental chairs in Cottage Grove they also plan on using.
There is concern that students with busier schedules will have a tough time adjusting to the new clinic schedules, but LCC says they're doing all they can to help students stay on track to complete the program this spring. The school is hopeful that by the beginning of next term, Building 4 will be fully functional again.