Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
|SICK BUILDING SYNDROME (SBS)|
What is Sick Building Syndrome?
Sick building syndrome is a broad label that covers a range of symptoms thought to be triggered when the sufferer spends time in a particular building. Symptoms range from specific symptoms such as itchy eyes, skin rashes, and nasal allergy symptoms, to more vague symptoms such as fatigue, aches and pains, and sensitivity to odours.The term "sick building syndrome", was first coined in the 1970s, and its recognition at this time may in part be attributable to the increasing presence of electronic equipment and other factors. It is used when the symptoms of a significant number of people occupying a particular building, are associated with their presence in that building. In most cases sick building syndrome occurs in office buildings, although it may also occur in other communal buildings such as schools and apartment buildings.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sick building syndrome is strongly suspected when the following circumstances are present:
The circumstances most suggestive of sick building syndrome are presence of common symptoms amongst a group of building occupants that are present when they are in the building and absent when they are not in the building.
The EPA highlights the distinction between sick building syndrome and building related illness. The latter term is used for situations in which signs and symptoms of diagnosable illness are readily identified and can be attributed directly to specific airborne building contaminants. Examples of building related illnesses are Legionnaires' Disease and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. In contrast, the cause(s) of symptoms in cases of sick building syndrome are often hard to pin down and in many cases a range of factors may contribute to the situation. When a sick building is identified an extensive investigation by people such as the employer, building owner or manager, building investigation specialist, and if necessary, local medical authority epidemiologists and other public health officials, is often required.
Once a sick building has been investigated various measures must be taken to ensure the cause(s) are removed to make it safe for the occupants.
Although the problem of sick building syndrome has been recognized for decades, statistics regarding the prevalence of the problem are limited. A World Health Organization (WHO) report from 1984 suggested that up to 30% of new and renovated buildings worldwide may generate excessive complaints related to indoor air quality This high rate may be associated with modern mass produced construction materials that tend to offgas irritating volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). In a US report, of office workers questioned at random, 24% reported air quality problems in their work place, and 20% believed this harmed their ability to do their job effectively.
Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome
Sick building syndrome involves a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms, much like other unexplained conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and Gulf War Syndrome do. Some authorities have attempted to separate the symptoms into distinct categories such as 'allergic' and 'non-allergic', or 'chemical related' and 'microbe related'. Since there is yet no concensus on these distinctions, the common symptoms of SBS are listed here together:
Sensitivity to odours is the definitive symptom of the related condition multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Both SBS and MCS are thought, at least in part, to be due to exposure to VOC's in the air.
Causes of Sick Building Syndrome
Although in many cases the exact mechanism by which a building, or substances within the building, are causing the occupants to become ill is unknown, the problem areas can usually be identified and remedial action taken.
In many SBS cases poor building design, maintenance, and/or operation of the structure's ventilation system may be at fault (3). The ventilation system in particular is often found to be at the heart of the problem, and can itself be a source of irritants. In addition, a poor ventilation system can result in a buildup of pollutants within the building, in which case the indoor environment can often have air quality much lower than the outdoor air, even in a heavily polluted city centre with it's clouds of vehicle exhaust and other pollutants. Interior design factors, such as the arrangement of individual offices and cubicles, may also interfere with efficient functioning of ventilation systems. Essentially poor office design and maintenance of the ventilation system can amplify the negative health effects of various factors, both biological and chemicals, that we'll discuss below.
It has also been suggested that very low levels of specific pollutants, such as VOCs, that are present inside a building may act synergistically, or at least in combination, to cause symptoms of illness. The chemical industry is not strictly regulated, with the majority of the many thousands of chemicals in everyday use having not been tested for health effects before their introduction. Chemicals have traditionally been thought to be toxic only above certain concentrations but scientists are now finding they often have health damaging effects at much lower levels, previously considered to be safe. In the case of small amounts of multiple different chemicals acting in combination to cause illness, there is virtually no research on this to refer to, so any effects are entirely unknown.
The symptoms of SBS are likely the result of a combination of factors. Many of the symptoms can be attributed either to the known toxic effects of high levels of certain chemicals. Other symptoms are typical of allergic reactions which could be triggered by various allergens in a building. Still other symptoms are very reminiscent of those experienced by sufferers of multiple chemical sensitivity and many of the indoor pollutants identified in sick buildings are also those said to cause symptoms in those suffering from MCS. It's likely that all of these mechanisms and associated pollutants are involved in SBS.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Saturday, April 3, 2010
INDOOR POLLUTION CAUSES?
The causes of indoor air pollution are many. Some of the pollutants or irritants come from us, or our pets. Everyone's skin sheds, flakes off and becomes dust, which is a form of indoor air pollution. Pet dander, smoke, debris and dirt from out clothing as we come inside also contribute. Mold, Radon and Carbon Monoxide are also dangerous air pollutants.
Chemicals, including household types such as cleaning chemicals can be toxic. Chemicals must be used with care. Finding non toxic alternatives are always best and there are recipes for them all over the internet as well as affordable "green" chemicals available in stores.
People tend to keep all of their doors and windows closed. The air conditioner is normally running or the fans swirling away. The problem is, very seldom if at all, do people have all doors and windows opened to allow fresh air in, or to even have the filters and air con ducts cleaned. These are also a major source of the pollutants in the home and should be cleaned at least yearly. Although outdoor pollution isn't good either; indoor pollution is 10 times worse. Opening a couple of windows occasionally and letting in some air isn't going to hurt.
Other areas needing cleaning and attention are the attic, basements, store rooms, cabinets, bathrooms and other less ventilated areas for accumulating dusts, and breeding grounds for mold. At least yearly, these areas should be cleaned with bleach and dried. Mold can cause big health problems in people of all ages. Don't forget to clean behind the stove and the refrigerator because not only dust, but grease can accumulate there. Try to make out a schedule so that all areas of the house get cleaned regularly.
Getting an air purifier can work wonders with reducing the amount of air pollution in the home. There are types which can be used just for one room and also whole house purifiers. The several layers of filters in them do a remarkable job of picking up particles and pollutants. These filters must be cleaned often or changed regularly enough or they in turn will pollute the air indoors with their accumulated dusts and bacteria. You are almost guaranteed and will be to be able to tell the difference in your indoor air within 24 hours. They work that well!