The phrase Sick Building Syndrome is showing up more and more in the news. It is a general term used to describe an assortment of illnesses and symptoms that afflict a wide range of people who work, live or frequent a particular building or commercial property.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sick Building Syndrome?
Sick Building Syndrome has an assortment of potential symptoms that present in people who frequent the same building. This includes:
- Chronic problems with sniffles
- Stuffy nose and recurring sinus infections
- Itchy eyes
- Sore or scratchy throats
- Dry, irritated skin
- Frequent upset stomach and upper digestive tract issues
- Recurring headaches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Recurring fatigue or lethargy
One of the things that a lot of people living or working in a sick building notice is how their symptoms seem to disappear after a long weekend away or taking a vacation. Only to have the same old problems resurface once they return to the affected interior environment.
Is Sick Building Syndrome A Real Thing?
Some people dispute Sick Building Syndrome as if it was a made-up term or an urban myth. Though it is recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as being a collection of symptoms related to poor indoor air quality.
What Causes Sick Building Syndrome?
Sick Building Syndrome can trace its roots back to the construction practices of the 1970s. At that time many builders and commercial property managers were looking for ways to deal with the energy crisis. This called for subpar attempts to reduce a building’s overall energy consumption through things like increased insulation, excessive building wraps, applying low-quality weatherstripping to doors, and installing double or even triple-pane windows that didn’t open. This had the net effect of trapping heat, as well as reducing airflow. Without the ability to sufficiently refresh the air inside a building, even a small amount of indoor air pollution can start to build up over time.
- This can include things like:
- Fumes from paints
- Airborne carpet fibers
- Fumes from furniture and furniture polish
- Off-gas noxious fumes from wallboard
- Interior products that emit traced of formaldehyde, acetic acid, or VOCs
- Office equipment chemicals
- Mold or mildew from damp conditions
Even trace amounts of each of these things can start to accumulate over time. This creates a sort of toxic indoor air quality that can affect anyone who lives and works in the building. It can also have a profound effect on people with respiratory health conditions like asthma and respiratory allergies.
How To Prevent Sick Building Syndrome
OSHA, the EPA, and other government agencies note that the majority of Sick Building Syndrome cases are linked to poor indoor air quality or poor airflow. If you suspect, or your building has been inspected for Sick Building Syndrome causes, the first proactive step is to find ways to improve airflow while also making efforts to reduce the materials that are releasing potential toxins into the air. This includes some of the following measures.
Clean Damp Areas & Remediate Mold
Active mold colonies release spores and mycotoxins into the air. This can irritate the breathing passages of everyone in the building. It can also cause severe respiratory distress in individuals with respiratory health conditions, allergies, and people who have problems with chronic inflammation.
Removing all mold-infested materials from wet areas and basements and implementing a mold-preventing strategy will go a long way toward improving indoor air quality. It can also be a factor in reducing potential liability issues.
If the mold problem is significant, or you lack the tools and training to safely remediate and dispose of mold-infested materials, you should consider contacting a professional mold remediation company like Building Services Inc. Without the proper equipment and training, you risk disturbing the colony, which could release more spores and mycotoxins into the air.
Being able to extricate poor quality air efficiently is also a major step in the right direction when it comes to alleviating recurring symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome. Installing Install HVLS fans to improve the building’s ventilation with a target goal airflow rate of 5 cubic feet per minute per person. This is usually sufficient to remove airborne contaminants from high-use areas.
It’s also worth noting that High-volume, low-speed (HVLS) fans can move up to 425,000 CFM and also can make the space feel up to 10 degrees warmer or cooler, without having to adjust the HVAC controls.
Schedule Routine HVAC Inspections & Maintenance
HVAC malfunctions and inefficiencies can easily contribute to Sick Building conditions. It’s all too easy for commercial property managers and building owners to put off HVAC maintenance until there is an obvious problem.
Taking a proactive approach to having your HVAC systems inspected and routinely maintained will help manage indoor air quality. It can also catch minor mechanical malfunctions before they turn into major repair bills.
Opening Low-Level Windows
Many commercial properties and buildings over three stories have windows that don’t open at the upper levels. Though lower level windows can be opened on pleasant days to let low-quality indoor air out, and allow fresh outdoor air in. This can also help improve the air quality issues that are often associated with Sick Building Syndrome.
Improve Daily Cleaning Routines & Schedule Deep Cleaning Events
Even simple things like having your office spaces and high traffic areas professionally cleaned on a daily or twice a week basis will go a long way toward removing potential airborne contaminants. Professional-grade vacuum cleaners have the power to capture things like errant carpet fibers and prevent them from dispersing back into the interior air by holding them in high-quality HEPA filters.
At Building Services Inc. we also offer a special “Green Cleaning” process. This uses all-natural, organic products to clean and refresh the interior of your building. It helps to replace a lot of the fumes and chemical odors that are often a contributing factor in Sick Building Syndrome.
We also offer special deep cleaning services. These can be special events that are scheduled after your normal hours of operation or on the weekends. Our meticulous deep-cleaning techniques use commercial grade equipment to clean hard and soft surfaces, while also improving overall indoor air quality.