Sources and Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome
The only way to eliminate the problem of SBS once and for all is to ensure that a building’s air is properly filtered and circulated
The term sick building syndrome, sometimes referred to as SBS, is used to describe situations in which a building’s occupants experience acute negative health and comfort effects that appear to be associated with time spent in the building, but there is no specific identifiable cause or illness that can be found. In some cases, complaints may be associated with certain rooms or zones within the building, in others, they may be spread throughout the entire building. A key part of the definition of SBS is that the symptoms disappear once the individual has left the building.
The condition is often temporary, but some buildings have exhibited long term problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings around the world receive higher than normal complaints related to their indoor air quality. SBS problems are frequently the results of buildings that are operated or maintained in a manner that is inconsistent with their original design or recommended operating procedures. Problems with the indoor air quality can also be the result of poor building design or activities carried out by building occupants.
Sick Building Syndrome Symptoms
Symptoms of SBS can vary quite a bit. Some of the most common complaints include headache, eye, nose or throat irritation, dry cough, dry or itchy skin, dizziness and nausea, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and sensitivity to odors.
Causes of Sick Building Syndrome
Although it is difficult to identify any singular cause of SBS, in most cases the phenomenon is associated with poor indoor air quality. Overall, it stems from inadequate ventilation within an area, or an entire building, that ultimately causes a buildup of contaminants and toxins in the air.
Indoor chemical sources - Particles, gases and chemicals are released within the environment from things like furniture upholstery, carpets, manufactured wood products, cleaning products, pesticides, copiers and printers, and many types of office supplies such as permanent markers and glues.
Outdoor chemical sources - Pollutants can be pulled into a building through open doors, attached garages or parking structures, loading docks, and even poorly located intake vents. When there is not sufficient ventilation, they become trapped and build up over time. Common outdoor contaminants found in buildings include chemicals from vehicle exhaust, cooking exhaust from internal or external kitchens, pesticides and chemicals released from materials at nearby construction or demolition sites.
Biological contaminants - Many biological contaminants can be found in the air from both internal and external sources. Molds and fungi can grow and spread in areas that have become wet and humid due to things like a leaking roof or condensation in ducts. Bacteria, pollen and other natural pollutants can also build up without proper filtration and ventilation. In addition to all of the above, building occupants will naturally add to contamination in the air as they leave behind things like dead skin cells, hair and body fluids.
Treat The Source, Not The Symptom
Some of those suffering from symptoms of sick building syndrome can find relief in medications provided by their doctors, but the key to eliminating the symptoms — and preventing them in the first place — is proper air filtration and ventilation.
Applying band-aid type solutions like temporary cleanups, medications, or just staying away from a particular building will not solve the root problem. The only way to eliminate the problem of SBS once and for all is to ensure that a building’s air is properly filtered and circulated, and that all of the building’s recommended operational procedures are being followed.
The average person consumes more than 10,000 liters of air every day as they breathe, and spends 90% of their time indoors. If you’re spending your indoor time in an environment with contaminated air, you could be doing serious damage to your health without even realizing it. You owe it to yourself, your family, and your coworkers to make sure the air you’re breathing every day is safe and healthy.
Camfil produces a full line of air filtration products, from self-contained air purifiers that clean a single room all the way up to highly advanced filters and complete systems designed that remove dangerous microscopic contaminants from the most polluted industrial environments.
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