Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a combination of ailments (a syndrome) associated with an individual's place of work (office building) or residence. A 1984 World Health Organization report into the syndrome suggested up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be linked to symptoms of SBS. Most of the sick building syndrome is related to poor indoor air quality.
Sick building causes are frequently pinned down to flaws in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Other causes have been attributed to contaminants produced by outgassing of some types of building materials, volatile organic compounds (VOC), molds (see mold health issues), improper exhaust ventilation of ozone (byproduct of some office machinery), light industrial chemicals used within, or lack of adequate fresh-air intake/air filtration.
Symptoms are often dealt with after-the-fact by boosting the overall turn-over rate of fresh air exchange with the outside air, but the new green building design goal should be able to avoid most of the SBS problem sources in the first place, minimize the ongoing use of VOC cleaning compounds, and eliminate conditions that encourage allergenic, potentially-deadly mold growth.
Symptoms[edit | edit source]
Building occupants complain of a variety of symptoms such as sensory irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, fatigue, neurotoxic or general health problems; skin irritation, nonspecific hypersensitivity reactions, and odor and taste sensations.
Several sick occupants may report individual symptoms which do not appear to be connected. The key to discovery is the increased incidence of illnesses in general with onset or exacerbation within a fairly close time frame - usually within a period of weeks. In most cases, SBS symptoms will be relieved soon after the occupants leave the particular room or zone. However, there can be lingering effects of various neurotoxins, which may not clear up when the occupant leaves the building. Particularly in sensitive individuals there can be long-term health effects.
Causes[edit | edit source]
The causes of Sick Building Syndrome can be attributed to inadequate ventilation, chemical contaminants from indoor or outdoor sources, as well as biological contaminants. Many volatile organic compounds, which are considered chemical contaminants, can cause acute effects on the occupants of a building. "Bacteria, molds, pollen, and viruses are types of biological contaminants," and can all cause SBS. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recently revised its ventilation standard to provide a minimum of 15 cfm of outdoor air per person (20 cfm/person in office spaces). In addition, pollution from outdoors such as motor vehicle exhaust, can contribute to SBS. 
Prevention[edit | edit source]
- Roof shingle cleaning non pressure removal of algae, mold & Gloeocapsa magma.
- Pollutant source removal or modification to storage of sources.
- Replacement of water-stained ceiling tiles and carpeting.
- Use paints, adhesives, solvents, and pesticides in well-ventilated areas, and use of these pollutant sources during periods of non-occupancy.
- Increase the number of air exchanges, The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Engineers recommend a minimum of 8.4 air exchanges per 24 hour period.
- Proper and frequent maintenance of HVAC systems
- UV-C light in the HVAC plenum
- Regular vacuuming with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner to collect and retain 99.97% of particles down to and including 0.3 micrometres
Gender differences[edit | edit source]
There might be a gender difference in reporting rates of sick building syndrome because women tend to report more symptoms than men. Along with this, there have been studies where they found that women have a more responsive immune system and are more prone to mucosal dryness and facial erythema. Also, women are alleged by some to be more exposed to indoor environmental factors, because they have a tendency to have more clerical work where they are exposed to unique office equipment and materials (example: blueprint machines), whereas men have jobs based outside of offices.
See also[edit | edit source]
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Sick Building Syndrome. United States Environmental Protection Agency. URL accessed on 2009-02-19.
- Mold and Mildew PDF file. National Institute of Environmental Health Science. URL accessed on 2009-02-19.
- Godish, Thad (2001). Indoor Environmental Quality. New York: CRC Press. pp. 196-197. ISBN 1566704022
- "Sick Building Syndrome." National Safety Council. (2009) Retrieved April 27, 2009. 
- Godish, Thad (2001). Indoor Environmental quality. New York: CRC Press. pp. 196-197. ISBN 1566704022
References[edit | edit source]
- Martín-Gil J, Yanguas MC, San José JF, Rey-Martínez and Martín-Gil FJ. "Outcomes of research into a sick hospital". Hospital Management International, 1997, pp 80–82. Sterling Publications Limited.
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Murphy, Michelle. Sick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty: Environmental Politics, Technoscience, and Women Workers (Duke University Press, 2006). ISBN 978-0-8223-3671-6.
- Research Committee Report on Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Caused by Exposure to the Interior Environment of Water-Damaged Buildings (PDF)
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