A healthy environment is important no matter where you are: school, work or home.
Employers and safety managers are charged with providing clean air to workers and guests, but homeowners are solely in control of their home’s air quality.
If the interior air becomes polluted, it can lead to a situation called Sick Building Syndrome. You may have heard of Legionnaires ’ disease. This condition is a worst-case example of Sick Building Syndrome, in which over 200 people were infected by a bacteria at an American Legion convention in the late 1970s. Thirty-four people died due to complications and pneumonia.
In this article, we’ll cover some the most important features of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) so you can prevent this condition from occurring at your property.
What Causes Sick Building Syndrome?
SBS isn’t one particular condition or disease. It is a generalized term used to describe a group of similar health conditions contracted by people that spend time in the same building or a certain area within the building.
SBS occurs when the air within the building is dirty. This pollution could be the result of one or more things:
- Poor ventilation
- Dirty HVAC system
- Construction dust
- Chemical fumes
- Tiny fabric fiber
- Flickering lights
If any of these things are present inside a building, it can greatly affect the health of the people inside. Next, we’ll discuss some of the symptoms that may be present if a building is contaminated.
Signs of Sick Building Syndrome
SBS is hard to diagnose because it can result from so many different causes. As you can imagine, the signs of SBS are just as wide-ranging as its causes.
If several people in the same office, school, or apartment building are experiencing the same symptoms, there’s a good chance SBS is to blame.
Here are a few physical symptoms they may share:
- Sinus irritation
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Dry skin or skin rashes
- Trouble focusing
- Odor sensitivity
Because these symptoms are so general and fairly common to a multitude of illnesses, it may take time for a pattern to emerge. If the inhabitants of the building aren’t visiting the same doctors or communicating with one another, the connection may never be made that dirty air is the ultimate cause of their illness.
How to Prevent Sick Building Syndrome
Poor air quality is at the root of Sick Building Syndrome. Ventilation must be a top priority for owners, safety personnel and homeowners.
Below are a few ways to make sure the air your family or employees are breathing is as clean as possible.
Mold is a major contaminate in many American homes and businesses. It is estimated that one out of every three homes has a mold problem. Mold is responsible for allergy-like symptoms, skin rashes, and more. Pure Maintenance of St. Louis offers mold testing for commercial properties in the St. Louis area.
General air quality testing is a good idea as well. This can tell you if your HVAC system and air filtration system are working up to expectations.
Low VOC Products
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are found in cleaning products like bleach, ammonia, and many others. They produce odors and release chemicals even after you are finished using them, so, ironically, while the scent of bleach might signal a clean building, that same cleaner can also make people sick.
Regular cleaning is important, but don’t re-pollute the air with harsh chemicals. Look for low VOC products instead.
To take this topic one step further, you can look for low VOC products like paint, flooring and furniture to put in your home or office as well to keep the overall VOCs lower.
HVAC Maintenance Schedule
Cleaning and maintaining your HVAC system ensures cleaner air throughout your building or home. This is a step you definitely don’t want to skip if you’re concerned about cleaner air!
Mold, dust, dust mites, and many other disgusting things can live inside the vents and ducts of your HVAC system, or in the outdoor unit itself, so take the extra initiative to have these areas cleaned well during yearly or bi-yearly inspections.
Mold and mildew grow best in humid environments, so keep the humidity low in your home or building.
Dehumidifiers are inexpensive and effective for homes, but businesses may have to look for a more permanent solution.
Preventing humidity in the first place is an easier job. Keep the temp lower than 68 at all times to control humidity, and leave the doors and windows closed unless it’s a low-humidity day. These easy tips will prevent humidity, which often leads to mold and mildew.
In the case of a water leak or major spill, have the water cleaned up ASAP, and run dehumidifiers in the area to get humidity under control quickly.
Maintain Air Filters
If you don’t already have an air filtering system, have one installed. If you do, make sure you’re changing the filters regularly, and use high-quality filters.
Air filters catch all sorts of particles that you don’t want floating around in the air, including mold, dust, pollen, bacteria and viruses. If they are not changed regularly, though, they will only collect these particles just to be re-spread back through your home.
Stop Sick Building Syndrome Today!
Clean air is good for people and pets, but dirty air can be downright deadly. No matter what measures you take to prevent Sick Building Syndrome, you still need to have your home or business tested regularly to make sure the indoor air quality is acceptable. Prevention is great, but regular testing will ensure that the steps you are taking are working.