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Avoid Sick Building Syndrome

If you experience health problems in your home or workplace, and the symptoms have no apparent cause, you may be suffering from sick building syndrome.

If you feel fine when you wake up in the morning, develop unpleasant symptoms at work, and then start to feel better on your drive home, you can almost guarantee the environment at work is unhealthy. The opposite may also be true; you might feel horrible when you get up but force yourself to go to work. You feel better as the day wears on, but then your symptoms return when you arrive at home. Signs of Sick Building Syndrome Symptoms may occur everywhere in the building or only in specific rooms. Whether you feel unhealthy at home or work, the symptoms may include:

  • Headache and fatigue
  • Eye, nose or throat irritation
  • Dry cough
  • Itchy skin
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sensitivity to odors

Causes of Sick Building Syndrome What causes the air in a building to make you feel sick when the air in another building is perfectly fine? Common causes of sick building syndrome include:

  • Chemical contaminants: Many products used indoors are sources of harmful air pollution. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are especially detrimental to your health. Everything from carpet adhesives to pressed wood products to paints emit VOCs into the indoor air. Even chemicals used outside can make their way indoors and pollute the air. These include vehicle exhaust, backdrafted carbon monoxide and garden chemicals.
  • Biological contaminants: Standing water harbors mold growth. Moist indoor air invites dust mites and other insects to thrive. A poorly maintained exterior allows rodents to enter and leave their droppings behind. Bacteria, viruses and pollen congregate and multiply in indoor environments. All of these biological contaminants have negative effects on indoor air quality and can cause health problems.
  • Poor ventilation: While the goal of builders and homeowners is to achieve greater building tightness for energy efficiency, some amount of air exchange is necessary to maintain good indoor air quality. Without it, high concentrations of chemical and biological contaminants become trapped inside and cause the symptoms mentioned earlier, especially in sensitive individuals.

How to Identify Sick Building Syndrome The symptoms you experience at home or work could just be seasonal allergies or a sickness that needs time to pass, but the cause could also be sick building syndrome. To find out for sure, you should conduct a building investigation. If the symptoms show up at work, talk to your supervisor about investigating the office for signs of sick building syndrome. A building investigation involves:

  • Asking building occupants about symptoms they experience in certain rooms of the building
  • Examining the HVAC system for contaminants in the ductwork
  • Conducting a walkthrough of the building, looking for sources of contamination such as rodent dropping, standing water or mold growth
  • Taking air samples to show contaminant concentrations, not as a standalone procedure but as part of a comprehensive analysis

Remedies for Sick Building Syndrome Once you identify the underlying causes of your symptoms at home or in the workplace, you can take the necessary steps to clean up the contamination and prevent it from reoccurring. The solution usually involves implementing a combination of the following:

  • Remove sources of pollution: When you know the precise, controllable cause of the indoor air quality problem, it’s easy to remove the pollutant. For example, you may need to start:
    • Routinely cleaning the HVAC system
    • Using a high-efficiency air filter and replacing it regularly
    • Fixing plumbing or roof leaks and replacing damaged ceiling tiles, insulation and carpet
    • Enforcing smoking restrictions
    • Storing paints, pesticides, adhesives and other chemicals outside the living area
  • Increase ventilation: Source control is important, but so is ventilation. Running local exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen while bathing, cooking and cleaning reduces the concentration of indoor air pollutants. A whole-house ventilation system is also incredibly effective at controlling air infiltration rates.
  • Educate and communicate: When everyone understands the causes of sick building syndrome, they can work together to ensure indoor air stays clean and breathable.

If you’re worried about sick building syndrome, contact Rainbow International® today for help getting the air in your home or business back on track.

If you thought this article was helpful, take a look at other posts on mold:

Health Issues Caused by Mold

Preventing Mold in the Most Likely Places

Types of Mold you Need to Know About