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WeWork tenants warned about formaldehyde telephone kiosks for months



  • WeWork informed tenants Monday morning that it was removing thousands of telephone kiosks from offices because of "potentially elevated levels of formaldehyde."
  • But leaked emails obtained by Business Insider show that tenants complained of harmful chemicals in the phone booths as early as August.
  • A tenant contacted a WeWork community manager in August to report that people suffered from eye irritation, weakness and nausea after using phone kiosks.
  • WeWork tenants said the company did not tell them. to avoid phone booths until October.
  • WeWork declined to comment on this story.
  • Visit the Business Insiders homepage for more stories.

Many tenants of WeWork were surprised Monday morning by the company's announcement that it would remove thousands of telephone kiosks from their offices across the United States and Canada because of "elevated levels of formaldehyde."

But for others, the announcement was overdue. That's because some tenants notified WeWork of the presence of harmful chemicals in the office's phone booths as early as August, according to emails from Business Insider.

Xen Eldridge, tenant of WeWork & # 39; s 3rd Avenue Avenue in Seattle, first sent an email to a WeWork community manager Aug. 29 to report that he and his colleagues experienced side effects after spending time in office telephone booths.

"Many of my colleagues have reported that using the phone booths for longer than 20 minutes causes their eyes to flutter, feel faint and / or nauseous. Some of us with more sensitive eyes notice this even faster. This disappears more or less immediately after leaving the phone booth, or when the door is left open, "Eldridge wrote to the community manager.

Eldridge emails in August appear to describe the symptoms of exposure to formaldehyde, a toxic chemical used in construction and home products that can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, according to EPA.

 Telephone kiosk with homework

The telephone kiosks at one of the Seattle WeWork locations.
Xen Eldridge


WeWork quickly acknowledged Eldridge & # 39; s complaint. Emails seen by Business Insider show that a community manager responded to Eldridge the same day, saying that the company consulted the facilities team to resolve the issue. At that time, one of Eldridge & # 39; s colleagues followed up with the same community manager to add that they too had experienced the same side effects from using a telephone booth that others had in the office.

However, according to Eldridge, no visible measures were taken by WeWork until October 11, when WeWork employees showed up at the office to instruct tenants not to use telephone booths. At that time, the signs were placed in telephone booths where they said "CAUTION: DO NOT USE."

These signs were replaced with an updated sign Monday, Eldridge said, which included a more specific warning about formaldehyde: "DANGER: FORMALDEHYD MAY May cause cancer, cause skin, eyes and respiratory irritation."

 wework 1

A sign posted at the WeWork Seattle offices October 14.
Xen Eldridge


In addition to Eldridge, Business Insider spoke with another tenant of Seattle WeWork who wanted to remain anonymous to talk openly. This tenant confirmed Eldridge's telling of incidents and described having experienced eye irritation first hand after using phone kiosks that began in July.

A spokesman for WeWork declined to comment. Earlier on Monday, a spokesperson said that formaldehyde was caused by the distributor of the telephone kiosks, and that WeWork had taken steps to remove telephone kiosks after tests for formaldehyde came back positive last week.

Do you work at WeWork and have a story to share? Contact this reporter at aholmes@BusinessInsider.com.


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