What Is Sick Building Syndrome?

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Family - Laughing 350 IONaerMany health problems are related to your environment.

Sick Building Syndrome is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience health issues that are linked to the time spent in a building.

This “bad air”  may be localized to a particular room, or may be widespread throughout the entire building.

Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and Pain
  • Lack of Mental Clarity
  • Depression
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Eye or Throat Irritation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Dry Cough
  • Itchy Skin

Anyone can be affected by Sick Building Syndrome.  Although office workers are most at risk.

Kids In School 380 shadowSick Building Syndrome has been reported in thousands of public schools affecting students and faculty alike. Children are most susceptible to the effects of  “bad air” due to their time spent in school, immature immune system, and developing lungs.

There are many factors that can cause Sick Building Syndrome. According to the EPA, the main sources are:

Inadequate Ventilation
A lack of proper air distribution can often lead to increased indoor pollution and particulate levels. In addition, HVAC units that are not properly maintained can become biologically contaminated with mold and spread “bad air” throughout the building.

Chemical Contamination
VOCs are organic compounds found in everyday cleaning products and synthetic building materials. The process of using many cleaning products or aerosols can lead to VOC contamination. In addition, every synthetic material used in a building or office releases VOC gasses.These are commonly found in drywall, paint, carpet, wood lacquers, furniture, and fireproof materials. As these products release VOCs, the buildup of contamination can cause many Sick Building Syndrome symptoms.

Outdoor Pollution
Commercial buildings located near major intersections and near highways are susceptible to exhaust fumes entering the building and contaminating the air. Many air handlers are located in areas where trucks and cars idle, leading to contamination of the “fresh air” that is being brought into the building.

Biological Contaminants
Bacteria, molds, pollen, and viruses are all types of biological contaminants. These contaminants breed in stagnant water and moist areas like air ducts, drain pans, ceiling tiles, and anywhere else water has collected. Mold, bacteria, and fungi can live in many areas of a building that are not seen by human eyes.A simple water leak can lead to the contamination of an entire building by providing a place for mold and bacteria to grow.  In addition, bird and rodent droppings have been connected to fevers, chills, respiratory contamination and even Legionnaire’s disease.

Synthetic Materials
The storage of paints, adhesives, solvents, cleaning supplies, and pesticides by multiple tenants can lead to Sick Building Syndrome. In addition, new carpets, new building materials, and other home improvement projects need time to off-gas contaminants. Even neighbors’ projects can lead to high VOC contamination inside of an entire building.

Too Many Occupants
Air quality results depend on the number of people in a room or building and the ventilation offered. High levels of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) can severely affect cognitive performance of the occupants.The combination of improper ventilation and high levels of CO2 have been linked to reduced productivity as well as decreased cognitive function.

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