SICK BUILDING SYNDROME HAS ROBBED PEOPLE OF HEALTH AND
BUSINESS OWNERS OF PRODUCTIVITY
OFFICE BUILDINGS AND THEIR CONDITION WAS PREVIOUSLY IGNORED
Unless an environmental factor played a direct role in compromising the integrity of the structure, such as water intrusion or radon contamination, the role of environmental hazards and indoor air quality was essentially overlooked.
Until recently, a traditional home inspection or commercial property inspection consisted of a simple process that would be initiated either upon the sale or development of a residential or commercial property, or as a result of an unexpected problem that surfaced within a structure.
Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a combination of ailments (a syndrome) associated with an individual’s place of work (office building) or residence. A World Health Organization report into the syndrome suggested more than 30% of new and remodeled buildings may be linked to symptoms of SBS. Most of the sick building syndrome is related to poor indoor air quality.
Sick building causes are frequently pinned down to flaws in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Other causes have been attributed to contaminants produced by off-gassing of some types of building materials, volatile organic compounds, molds (see mold health issues), improper exhaust ventilation of light industrial chemicals used within, or fresh-air intake location / lack of adequate air filtration .
Symptoms are often dealt with after-the-fact by boosting the overall turn-over rate of fresh air exchange with the outside air, but the new green building design goal should be to avoid most of the SBS problem sources in the first place, minimize the ongoing use of VOC cleaning compounds, and eliminate conditions that encourage allergenic, potentially-deadly mold growth.
Building occupants complain of symptoms such as:
- Eye, nose, or throat irritation
- Dry cough; dry or itchy skin
- Dizziness and nausea
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Sensitivity to odors
- Increased incidence of asthma attacks/appearance of asthma in non-asthmatics
- Personality changes such as rage/weeping/paranoia/depression
- Putative cases of bronchitis or pneumonia which do not respond to antibiotic treatment
- Symptoms resembling Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
This is a shortened list, as over 50 possible symptoms are known. It is possible for a dozen sick occupants to report a surprising array of individual symptoms which may be dismissed as unconnected. The key to discovery is the increased incidence of illnesses in general with onset or exacerbation within a fairly close time frame - usually within a period of weeks. Some sources will insist that for SBS to exist, these symptoms must disappear soon after the occupants go outside. However, this view discounts the lingering effects of various neurotoxins, which may not clear up when the occupant leaves the building. In particularly sensitive individuals, the potential for long-term health effects cannot be overlooked.
The contributing factors often relate to the design of the built environment, and may include combinations of some or all of the following:
- Indoor air pollution
- Artificial fragrance, such as dryer sheets
- Poor heating or ventilation
- Microbial or mite contamination of HVAC systems.
- Chemical contamination.
- Biological contamination.
To learn if your building may have this problem contact us or look for our qualified Envirospect professionals. The theory that any mold contamination could be corrected by a little Clorox, could not be further from the truth.Envirospect
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