How You Can Prevent Building-related Sicknesses
If you are feeling constantly sick in your home or workplace, and the symptoms have no obvious cause, you could be suffering from “Sick Building Syndrome”.
Imagine you wake up every day full of vitality. Then not long after arriving at your desk, you start to feel listless and irritable. Later, not long into your commute home, you start to feel better again.
It does not take the mind of a genius to conclude that something at work may be making you feel badly – not necessarily the fact that you might not enjoy your job; rather, the environment you are experiencing may be a cause of the problem.
Conversely, if you feel energetic and healthy at your desk but are reluctant to return home, it may not be due to family pressures. It might simply be a result of your malfunctioning, domestic air conditioning or, literally, Sick Building Syndrome – now widely accepted in the scientific community as a meaningful, verifiable problem.
Signs of Sick Building Syndrome
Your ailments may occur anywhere in the building or only in specific rooms. Whether you feel unhealthy at home or at work, the symptoms may include:
• Headache and lethargy
• Eye, nose or throat irritation
• Dry, hoarse cough
• Itchy skin or rashes
• Dizziness and nausea
• Struggling to concentrate
• Sensitivity to odours
Root causes of Sick Building Syndrome:
What are the main reasons the air in a particular building may make you feel sick, when the air in another building is perfectly fine? The most common causes of sick building syndrome include:
Many products used inside a building can be sources of harmful air pollution. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are especially detrimental to your well -being. Everything from carpet glues to pressed wood products to resins emits VOCs into the indoor air. Often chemicals used outside make their way indoors and pollute the air. These may include vehicle exhaust; back-drafted carbon monoxide or chemicals used in garden maintenance.
Still or standing water provides an oasis that enables growth of mould. Moist indoor air is a welcoming environment for dust mites and other insects to thrive. A poorly maintained exterior building envelope (walls, windows, doorways, roofs) allows rodents such as rats or mice to enter and leave droppings behind. Bacteria, viruses and pollen congregate and multiply in indoor environments.
All of these biological contaminants have detrimental effects on indoor air quality and can cause you to feel ill.
While builders and homeowners want to achieve greater building envelope tightness for energy efficiency, there has to be some amount of “air exchange” with outdoor air to maintain overall good indoor air quality. Without it, high concentrations of chemical and biological contaminants can become trapped within the building and cause the symptoms mentioned above, in particular in allergy sensitive individuals.
How to Identify Sick Building Syndrome:
It is possible of course that certain poor health symptoms you may be experiencing at home or work might just reflect seasonal allergies or simply a common cold – but the cause could also be Sick Building Syndrome. To be sure, you need to arrange a building inspection. If the symptoms appear in the workplace, talk to your team leader about doing an investigation at the office for any signs of Sick Building Syndrome.
A Building Investigation involves:
Doing research with building occupants about symptoms they experience in certain rooms of the building (using interviews or surveys)
Examining the HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system to identify if there are contaminants in the ductwork
Conducting a “walkthrough” inspection of the building, looking for traces of visible contamination such as rodent droppings, standing water or mould growth
Taking air samples to test for contaminant concentrations, as part of a comprehensive Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Analysis.
Remedies for Sick Building Syndrome
After you have identified the true reasons for illness symptoms at home or in the workplace, you can take the necessary steps to eliminate and clean up the contamination and prevent it from starting again.
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:
• Regularly cleaning the HVAC system
• Using a higher-efficiency air filter and replacing it regularly
• Fixing plumbing or building leaks, insulation and old carpets
• Enforcing smoking restrictions
• Storing paints, pesticides, adhesives and other chemicals in a restricted and controlled area
Finding the source of indoor air contamination and controlling it is vital. But ventilation is equally important. Operating domestic air fans; in the bathroom while bathing, in the kitchen while cooking food, and when during domestic cleaning using suitable bleach and disinfectant products, substantially reduces the concentration of indoor air pollutants. A complete home and office professionally installed ventilation system is also effective at controlling air contamination rates.
When everyone works as a team to control and eliminate the causes of sick building syndrome, together they can ensure indoor air always stays clean and breathable.
If you’re worried about Sick Building Syndrome, contact AESS today for help in getting the air in your home or business back on track – ensuring a productive workplace and a healthy home environment.