Last year, I worked for a few months in an office in an old renovated woolen mill on the Cataraqui River in Kingston. There were a couple of factors that lead to my resignation, and perhaps I’ll discuss other reasons later. But for now, I’d like to focus on one.
Old buildings like this have a certain character lacking in more modern structures. In Toronto, I worked for a couple of years in a century old office building just off the Garment District. I liked the exposed brickwork and wooden beams inside the building, as well as the bare wooden floors. This old restored mill in Kingston had all that, plus a nice scenic location on the river.
However, this building is an area where much of the land and sediment in the river is still contaminated with significant amounts of toxic chemicals, such as lead, chromium, and mercury. I have no doubt that the building I worked in met current rules for workplace safety, but I still have to wonder if there’s something in the environment within that building.
For a long time, I’ve had to deal with anxiety symptoms. I’ve identified a couple of causes. First, I seem to have a sensitivity to MSG. Second, my symptoms seem related to seasonal allergies. The latter can be dealt with using one particular OTC allergy medication. The former can be addressed by careful reading of food labels and avoiding any foods containing MSG.
However, during my time on that particular job, I found my anxiety steadily increasing. And it seemed to do so in a way totally unrelated to the stresses of the job. Even after quitting that job, the symptoms stayed on for several months before fading away. I suspected something about the environment within the building. Sure, there were other aspects of the working conditions in that office that were less than ideal. For instance, the level of lighting was unacceptably low. There were spotlights aimed at the small desks, but the overall ambiance made me feel like sleeping instead of working. Also, the development staff was crowded into a small space, which made working uncomfortable. But what I found really suspicious was a greasy residue on the floor. Was that oily substance out-gassing some chemical into the air?
Sure, this may not be the worst of Kingston’s brown-fields. And I’m sure most people who work in this particular building do so without feeling any ill effects. But for me, I think I’ll stay away from that area.