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Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) and Indoor Air Quality

Posted in Air Quality, on July 21, 2017

You may have heard of Sick Building Syndrome (or SBS) in the news, but you may not know exactly what that means or how it could be effecting you and your indoor air quality. Sick Building Syndrome is a term that is used to describe a range of symptoms and health effects that are thought to be caused by the indoor environment, of which indoor air quality plays a huge part. People living or working in a sick building often suffer from symptoms like: headaches, dizziness, eye, nose or throat irritation, itchy skin, or fatigue. These symptoms generally increase in severity the longer someone spends in the building, and are greatly relieved or disappear once they leave the building. Indoor air quality has a big effect on your indoor comfort and health and is likely to be a huge part of SBS.

At SafeAir we have helped many clients rectify indoor air quality issues, and have found that SBS to be caused by three major faults in a home. Issues and flaws in a building’s HVAC system can greatly effect your indoor air quality and be a cause of SBS. Old or inefficient furnaces, air conditioning units, and ventilation could be sending dust, pollen, mold or other toxic fumes around your home and be affecting your indoor air quality. 

Recent renovations and retrofits done incorrectly, or mold growth in your basement may at first be localized, but the effects of these materials on your health can quickly spread to the whole building through your indoor air quality. Renovations and retrofits are another common culprit in SBS. While the health dangers of materials like of old materials containing toxic chemicals like lead or asbestos are well documented, modern materials and solvents, paints and glues are often just as toxic - they just lack the decades of accumulated knowledge about how they effect our indoor air quality. Indoor air quality contaminants that could be a cause of SBS include: laminate floors off-gassing, chemical solvents and cleaners, upholstery, and synthetic fragrances.

Biological contaminants are the third, and possibly most common indoor air quality problem that is associated with SBS. A leaky, wet basement, sink, or unventilated bathroom can cause moisture to build up inside your home. Once it begins to grow, mold could be releasing toxic spores into your indoor air quality, which you then breathe in. Other pollutants, like pollen, bacteria or other fungi could collect and accumulate in humidifiers, drainpipes, and ducts where it can effect your indoor air quality. In old chimney flues, attics, or other places where animals, birds, or insects might find their way inside can result in droppings or carcasses that will also effect your indoor air quality as they decompose and release allergens into the air.

Some other proposed causes of SBS include: electromagnetic radiation, psychological factors, and inappropriate lighting or bad acoustics. If you suspect you may have an indoor air quality issue or that you are suffering from SBS, your first step should be to have an indoor air quality test performed - this test will help determine what is causing your symptoms, and will recommend the right solutions to help improve your indoor air quality.

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