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Is Your Building Making You Sick?

Posted on November 06, 2012
by Wendy Stackhouse

You’ve already voted right? So now you have time to read blogs! Today we are revisiting sick building syndrome. Have you ever been to a building and felt like it gave you a headache? It might have!

Sick Building Syndrome is a real condition. Difficult to diagnose and sometimes believed to be psychological, biological and chemical contaminants and even gases in a building can cause severe health problems that subside after only a short time away from the location.

Health problems can include:

  • Headache
  • Irritation of the eyes, nose or throat
  • Itchy skin
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Acute odor sensitivity

In Sick Building Syndrome, the cause of the health problems cannot be clearly identified. And some of these same symptoms could be blamed on stress, allergies or job dissatisfaction. However, if enough people who spend time in one building complain of the same kind of symptoms, the indoor air in the building may be at fault.

What are the causes of Sick Building Syndrome?

Inadequate Ventilation–Ventilation requirements were drastically lowered during the energy crisis of the 1970’s to save energy by keeping heated and air conditioned air recirculating. These levels were found to be inadequate, however, and today’s recommendation is 3 times higher and higher still for buildings which have a lot of air pollution. Unfortunately, many buildings constructed in the late 20th century retain the lower ventilation rates.

Indoor Contaminants–Indoor air pollution can come from many materials and products used in building interiors: carpets, upholstery, adhesives, pressed wood, copiers, cleaning products, paints and pesticides are only a partial list. The chemicals given off in particles or VOC’s are a pretty dangerous bunch including formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.

Outdoor Contaminants–Underground garages and high vehicular traffic can cause a high level of combustion exhaust to enter a building through vents and windows. High levels of outdoor contaminants get trapped indoors when there is not enough ventilation.

Biological Contaminants–These are some things we at AirTek are very familiar with! Mold, pollen, viruses and bacteria can accumulate in a ventilation system and cause allergic reactions and disease. Biological contamination can cause symptoms like: fever, coughing, muscle aches, irritation of mucous membranes, chest tightness, chills and upper respiratory congestion. Legionnaires’ Disease can be deadly and comes from bacteria which grow in ventilation systems where moisture is allowed to collect.

What can you do about Sick Building Syndrome?
The wise would say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and that is certainly true here.

  • Building owners should make sure that their buildings are ventilated according to local building codes.
  • Ventilation systems should be cleaned regularly and tested to make sure they are functioning well.
  • Air filters should be replaced on schedule and smoking moved outdoors.
  • Any stained carpeting or ceiling tile should be replaced.
  • Any visible mold is a sign of much more that cannot be seen. Any signs of mold must be investigated and remediated right away.

If you suspect your building is “sick,” call in professionals to test your indoor air. Clean your ventilation systems including ducts and vents, and replace all air filters and start a maintenance schedule. You want your tenants or employees to be happy, healthy and productive. Don’t let your building make them sick!

AIRTEK offers services which are essential in treating Sick Building Syndrome. We can clean and sanitize all major components of your HVAC system–air handlers, blowers, coils, condenser units, drip pans, registers, returns, ventilation and duct systems, filter banks and gaskets. We also have environmentally friendly, non-toxic, biodegradable sanitizer upon request. Contact us!

AIRTEK hopes that all of the places where you spend your time, at home, at work, at play, are healthy and well-maintained!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and our affiliate Alliance Environmental Group. She welcomes your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on environmental services like mold remediation, lead removal and pest control including bed bugs, Like us at Alliance Environmental on Facebook or follow Alliance on Twitter!

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