Have you ever felt like you were quite literally allergic to work? If you answered yes, you may be the victim of Sick Building Syndrome. In certain situations unknown stimuli causes occupants of specific buildings to experience an allergic-like reaction with common symptoms, followed by simultaneous relief when the same people remove themselves from the building. Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome include but are not limited to: fatigue, lethargy, headache, irritation of mucus membranes, nausea, dizziness, eye and/or nose irritation and sensitivity to odors. All together or in combinations these could indicate Sick Building Syndrome.
Back in the early and mid-20th century, buildings were constructed to allow generous amounts of outdoor air to flow inside. In other words structures were specifically designed to not be air tight. Before the 1970s building standards required a minimum of approximately 15 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of outdoor air to be infiltrated in for each occupant. However, the 1973 oil embargo catalyzed energy conservationists to mandate buildings be constructed as air tight as possible, and that 15 cfm quickly became a mere 5 cfm per occupant. Because buildings are now air tight, hazardous contaminants from various sources are trapped in the indoor air system.
Sources that Cause SBS
- Inadequate ventilation: Air tight buildings with poorly operating HVAC systems have an uneven dispersal of air flow that does not effectively reach all occupants.
- Chemical toxins: There are two sources for chemical contamination – indoor and outdoor. Indoor chemical contaminants come from the emission of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Certain carpeting, upholstery, adhesives, cleaning products, and even copy machines can give off gaseous chemicals that are released into the air. Outdoor chemical contaminants enter the building from outdoor sources via poorly located air intake vents, windows and other openings. Examples include – Vehicle exhaust, plumbing vents, and building exhausts .
- Biological toxins: Bacteria, viruses, pollen and mold are all examples of biological contaminants that can be a source for Sick Building Syndrome. Any area that is susceptible to moisture buildup provides a welcoming environment for such impurities to flourish.
All major sources of SBS can amalgamate with smaller factors such as temperature and humidity. When such circumstances arise, the potential threat of Sick Building Syndrome is substantially increased.
Quick tips to avoid SBS
- Find the source! If you are aware of the source(s) of perilous pollutants, take proactive steps to correct the problem! Regular replacement of air filters, replacement of water damaged materials such as carpet or ceiling tiles, enforcement of smoking regulations, and routine maintenance of HVAC systems are all actions that help in eliminating the source.
- Choose flooring, furniture and other building supplies and materials that have low to none VOC emission. If that is not a possibility, then allow for a period of “off gassing” after newly constructed areas are completed and before they are occupied.
- Implement Green cleaning techniques! Not only does having a green cleaned office eliminate bacteria and dust pollutants, but the cleaning agents themselves are safe to use and have little to no VOC emission! Kill two birds with one stone and make green choices when it comes to your office cleaning practices. Green cleaning eliminates and prevents potential threats for SBS.
Don’t let yourself fall victim to Sick Building Syndrome. Envision Commercial Cleaning can help your office get on the right track when it comes to green cleaning. Don’t become overwhelmed with any mess big or small – call Envision Commercial Cleaning for your free quote today!