Sick building syndrome is a term that was coined to describe a building which causes the occupants to experience acute symptoms if sickness (respiratory problems and rash) that go away when they are not inside of the building.
The indoor air quality in these so-called sick buildings is often a temporary condition, but sometimes it can be long term. These problems often arise when a building is being operated in a manner in which it was not designed to operate. Here are some indications that you’re in a building that has sick building syndrome.
Sick Building Syndrome Indicators
* Those who live in or work in the building complain of acute symptoms like headache, eye, nose, or throat irritation; dry cough; dry or itchy skin; dizziness and nausea; difficulty in concentrating; fatigue; and sensitivity to odors.
* These symptoms are from an unknown cause and go away when not in the building.
Sick Building Syndrome Causes
* Inadequate ventilation – If a building does not have the proper amount of outside air circulating throughout the building based on how many people are in it, this can cause sick building syndrome. In addition, when heating, ventilating, and air condition (HVAC) symptoms are not working up to par, this can contribute to sick building syndrome.
* Indoor chemical contaminants – Indoor air pollutants can come from things like adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, and pesticides. Cleaning agents may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde. Combustion products such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, can come from unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, woodstoves, fireplaces and gas stoves.
* Outdoor chemical contaminants – Pollutants from motor vehicle exhausts, plumbing vents, and building exhausts (like bathrooms and kitchens) can enter the building through poorly located air intake vents, windows, and other openings.
* Biological contaminants – Bacteria, molds, pollen, and viruses are types of biological contaminants. These can breed in heating and cooling vents; in stagnant water that has accumulated in ducts, humidifiers and drain pans; or where water has collected on ceiling tiles, carpeting, or insulation. Biologic contaminants can also come in the form of insect or bird droppings.
Sick Building Solutions
* Remove the pollutant – This includes things like routine maintenance of HVAC systems, replacement of water-stained ceiling tiles and carpeting before occupancy.
* Improve the air quality – Increase the ventilation rate in the building so it circulates outside air better in the building.
* Air cleaning – Use filters to properly filter the air. Use the proper air filter for the space depending on what sort of air particles may be in the air.
It’s important to do whatever you can to improve the air quality in a building, whether it’s where you work or live. This way everyone can remain healthy.
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