As defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the term “sick building syndrome” (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building.
A 1984 World Health Organization Committee report suggested that up to 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality (IAQ). Often this condition is temporary, but some buildings have long-term problems. Frequently, problems result when a building is operated or maintained in a manner that is inconsistent with its original design or prescribed operating procedures. Sometimes indoor air problems are also a result of poor building design or occupant activities.
According to the EPA, indicators of SBS include:
• Building occupants complaining of symptoms associated with acute discomfort, these could include headaches; eye, nose or throat irritation; dry cough; dry or itchy skin; dizziness and nausea; difficulty in concentrating; fatigue; and sensitivity to odors.
• The cause of the symptoms is not known.
• Most of the complainants report relief soon after leaving the building.
Causes of SBS may include:
• Inadequate ventilation – if enough outdoor air is not allowed into a building, the health and comfort of building occupants can be compromised.
• Chemical contaminants from indoor sources – indoor air pollution can come from sources inside the building. For example, adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, pesticides and cleaning agents may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde.
• Chemical contaminants from outdoor sources – outdoor air that enters a building can be a source of indoor air pollution. For example, pollutants from motor vehicle exhausts, plumbing vents and building exhausts can enter the building through poorly located air intake vents, windows and other openings.
• Biological contaminants – bacteria, mold, pollen and viruses are all types of biological contaminants that may be present indoors.
Any of these elements may act alone or in combination, and may supplement other complaints such as inadequate temperature, humidity or lighting.
These are just a few things to know about sick building syndrome. To learn more about this or other health and safety, indoor air quality, occupational or environmental issues, please visit the websites shown in the video and below.
Clark Seif Clark http://www.csceng.com
EMSL Analytical, Inc. http://www.emsl.com
Indoor Environmental Consultants, Inc. http://www.iecinc.net
LA Testing http://www.latesting.com
Maine Indoor Air Quality Council http://www.maineindoorair.org
Zimmetry Environmental http://www.zimmetry.com
Healthy Indoors Magazine http://www.iaq.net
Hudson Douglas Public Adjusters http://HudsonDouglasPublicAdjusters.com