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What causes Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick Building Syndrome is a concern to anyone responsible for the health and well being of building occupants. That includes building and facilities managers who are motivated to protect occupant health, but who also recognize the personal and potential financial losses a “sick” building causes.

Scientists have spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what causes buildings to make occupants sick. What they discovered was that although the symptoms can vary, the cause is the same: poor air quality due to biological and chemical contaminants.

Biological contaminants include bacteria, molds, pollen and viruses, among other pollutants. A building’s environment, such as temperature, humidity and cleanliness can cause biological contaminants.

Chemical contaminants also are also a major factor in making building occupants sick. These include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), tobacco smoke and other sources of chemicals and odors.

The sources of biological and chemical contaminants are usually indoors, though they can occasionally come from outside. Excessive indoor moisture, for example, can breed molds, bacteria, viruses or other biological pollutants. Or a number of chemical pollutants can be produced by the building itself, such as improperly maintained appliances or heating systems. There are a number of risk factors when it comes to the contaminants that make buildings sick.

Risk Factors for Poor Indoor Air Quality

The possibilities for things that can have a negative effect on office air quality are vast. Some of the more common risks include:

  • Poor ventilation and maintenance, inadequate fresh air circulation
  • High or fluctuating temperatures
  • The presence and spread of fungal spores
  • Off-gassing of indoor pollutants such as cleaning products or pesticides
  • Contaminants and particles brought in from outside

When these risk factors actually have an effect on someone, they can produce a number of symptoms, including:

  • Irritation of eyes, throat, nose and skin
  • Infectious diseases
  • Lethargy
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Nausea

Following up with building occupants

Finding out which symptoms building occupants are suffering from can help determine what kinds of changes need to be made to improve indoor air quality. This will help start the process of making a building healthier.

After changes to a building have been made, discuss with occupants if their symptoms have improved. That can function as a gauge to determine if more changes are needed. It’s also important to keep everyone informed about the ongoing investigation, what efforts are being made to improve the air quality, how long the process may take and if the changes are having an effect.

When addressing Sick Building Syndrome issues, you may want to consult a professional who can help determine what changes would best help the building. Experts at IQAir, for instance, are available to customize systems to meet any office’s needs. IQAir technologies can provide the highest level of air filtration.

Air Quality Life is brought to you by The IQAir Group, the world’s leading innovator of Indoor Air Quality solutions since 1963. This online publication is designed to educate and inform the public about the latest research and news affecting indoor and outdoor air quality.

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