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Google is an amazing place to work. Forbes named it the “Best Company to Work For” four years in a row, and it’s not hard to see why: The tech giant offers one of the most innovative and creative places to flex those cerebral muscles, alongside perks like subsidized massages, wellness centers, horseshoe pits and even a seven-acre sports complex featuring a roller hockey, basketball, bocce and shuffle ball.
But toxic vapors? That wasn’t on the menu. And yet, says CBS in San Francisco, that’s just what employees got exposed to in two of Google’s Silicon Valley buildings. TCE (trichloroethylene) vapors were discovered at the company’s QD6 and QD7 offices on North Whisman Road, the same place that used to be occupied by Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel, Raytheon and other chip manufacturers. It’s suspected that they dumped thousands of gallons of the substance into the ground, thanks to a 1981 test that found TCE had contaminated the water supply.
According to CBS, Google’s buildings turned up eight micrograms per cubic meter of TCE, exceeding the recognized safe level of five micrograms. And despite Google installing state-of-the-art filters and performing air quality tests when it moved into “The Quad” last June, the news report suggests that as many as 1,000 workers may have been exposed to the toxic substance “for several months.”
While disconcerting, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers this bit of comfort: Apparently it takes decades of TCE exposure to cause health problems. Even so, for the staff who works there, it has probably taken a lot of the shine off this gig.
The company released a statement: “The health and safety of our employees is Google’s number one priority, and we take several proactive measures to ensure the healthiest indoor air environments possible.” I hope that includes relocating nervous staffers from those contaminated buildings.