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Sick Building Syndrome

The term Sick Building Syndrome indicates situations where the occupants of a building are experiencing acute health concerns and comfort affects that cannot otherwise be explained (no illnesses can be otherwise identified).  These illnesses are linked to the building itself and may even be localized to one particular area of the building.  If 20% of the building occupants have had complaints, it is termed a sick building.  Frequently it is attributed to when the building is operated or maintained in a manner inconsistent with its original design or prescribed operating procedures. 

Long-term exposure to indoor air pollution is becoming a worldwide epidemic.  It is suggested that up to 30% of new or remodeled buildings worldwide may be subject to excessive complaints related to poor indoor air quality.   It is most often identified when the symptoms are relieved shortly after leaving the building.  Other conditions that may be present i.e. allergies, asthma etc. could be aggravated by indoor air problems.

Some causes are of Sick Building Syndrome are poor ventilation, chemical contaminants (environmental tobacco smoke, household products, building materials, etc.) and biological contaminants (ie. dust mites, mould, legionnaires). 

Standards for ventilation in early 1900s were 15 cubic feet per minute (cfm) for each building occupant and later changed to 5 cfm due to the energy crisis in the 1970s.  The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers recently revised it back to 15 cfm, 20 in office spaces and up to 60 in areas like smoking lounges.  
  • Watering eyes
  • Hoarseness
  • Headaches
  • Skin irritation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Miscarriages
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nosebleeds
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Mental fogginess
  • Tremors
  • Swelling of legs
  • Cancer

If Sick Building Syndrome is suspected:

  • Have the building investigated by a professional
  • Have a professional remove or modify the source of the problem
  • Allow new and replaced building materials to off-gas before occupying the building
  • Always be aware of moldy or musty smells in the building because of areas of moisture and have a professional address the problem immediately
  • Increase ventilation, especially in areas that are known to have high emission levels such as bathrooms and copy rooms
  • Use any products that are a source of emissions outside or in a well-ventilated area. 
  • Clean Air Ducts regularly and replace all filters associated with the heating and cooling system when recommended by the manufacturer
  • Install a Central Air Cleaner to eliminate contaminants before they become a problem for building occupants.
If Sick Building Syndrome is a concern for you as an occupant or owner of a building, call Home Heroes for an Assessment of the area and an action plan to limit or prevent this epidemic from invading your environment.
Home Heroes' CODE WORD
for Indoor Air Quality
is "IAQ"
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