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 PROBLEM IS: Sick Building Syndrome
It is a term that has been used to describe building occupants’ unexplained health problems. The symptoms are usually respiratory, neurological, or both.
Sick Building Syndrome can be caused by multiple factors including poor ventilation and air quality, chemical and biological contaminants in the air from furnishings or cleaning products, and excessive moisture content in the indoor air such as from high humidity levels or leaks in the building envelope.
The most effective way to prevent SBS from occurring is through proper ventilation of the building.
This occurs when fresh outdoor air enters a building through an opening at nearly equal rates as room exhausts occur through another opening on another floor of the same level of the building.
Indoor Air Pollution
“Air pollution contributes to lung disease, including respiratory tract infections, asthma, and lung cancer. Lung disease claims close to 335,000 lives in America every year and is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Over the last decade, the death rate for lung disease has risen faster than for almost any other major disease.” -American Lung Association
“A growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.”
“Poor indoor air quality can cause or contribute to the development of chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma…
In addition, it can cause headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea, and fatigue.” -American Lung Association
“Biological pollutants, including molds, bacteria, viruses, pollen, dust mites, and animal dander promote poor indoor air quality… leading to breathing problems.” -American Lung Association
What Causes Indoor Air Problems?
Indoor air is not a static environment and can be impacted by outdoor pollutants, house dust, bacteria, fungi, and allergens.
These problems arise when there is an imbalance between the amount of indoor pollution created and the amount of ventilation to clear it away.
The basic benefits of healthy air are that it will help people to live more comfortably in their homes by providing relief from
- respiratory infections
The health benefits of clean air are many.
Consider, for example, the potential cardiovascular benefits of a lower prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is caused by an excess amount of air pollutants in the lungs.
Air pollution also contributes to more acute problems such as inflammation and respiratory irritation. Apart from these benefits,
- air pollution causes eye
- throat irritation
- other coughing-related illnesses like pneumonia
Air pollution also causes or worsens asthma symptoms in many people who have this condition, to begin with.
Cleaner air can lead to better immune systems overall because it would reduce exposure to allergens while increasing access to Vitamin D production during sunlight exposure due to less haze or smog in the daytime as well as reducing contact with bacteria that cause flu-like symptoms at night time when there’s less sunlight available.
New construction and tighter homes
What Do You Do If Your House Is Too Tight?
If your house is too tight, you can go with a ceiling fan. This type of fan will make your home feel less cramped because the air will circulate more freely.
However, it is important to remember that ceiling fans do not cool the area down; they simply make you feel cooler than the outside temperature does.
Ceiling fans also help to keep the air current flowing and reduce condensation on surfaces like windows.
Examples Of Indoor Air Pollution
What is Poor Air Ventilation?
If your home does not have a proper ventilation system, it can cause problems with your breathing. This is because the lack of airflow can allow humidity to build up in the room and collect on walls, furniture, and other surfaces.
This humid air can cause mold growth as well as more respiratory infections. Poor air ventilation also causes an increase in respiratory-related illnesses among household members who are allergic or asthmatic.
Poor air ventilation also means that clothing and bedding will not dry out properly which will lead to them smelling musty or mildew which is not very pleasant for anyone whose nose itches from the smell of wet laundry!
The Causes Of Poor Air Ventilation
A person’s airways are lined with small moist membranes known as the nasal passages and bronchi.
These membranes are delicate and provide a protective barrier between the environment and the sensitive lung tissue that lies beneath them.
The nasal passages also have special cells called ciliated epithelium that work to sweep away particles from the nose before they can travel deeper into the respiratory system.
Poor air ventilation is not just about dirty air, it’s about clean air too! Inadequate fresh, clean air in your home or workplace can lead to health problems such as chronic respiratory infections and allergic sensitivities for those with asthma or allergies.
“If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems.” “Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home.
High humidity, for a home, goes hand-in-hand with high levels of moisture in the air.
This is often caused by not having enough ventilation in the home. High humidity can also be caused by a lack of airflow and insulation in the home, which results in little to no circulation of dry air over wet surfaces that are likely to collect dust and mold spores.
High levels of humidity in homes can cause mold to grow on surfaces such as wallpaper or upholstery fabric where it has access to damp or humid conditions.
Black mold and other types of harmful molds can also grow on wood structural members such as beams, joists, and subflooring.
In addition, they may develop on window sills or any other surface where water leaks down from above. “High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants.” -EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
What Does High Humidity Feel Like?
High humidity may feel like a thick blanket of air that’s difficult to breathe in. The lower the humidity, the better it feels to take a deep breath.
When outside, you can feel high humidity by feeling your clothes stick to you or by noticing that your skin doesn’t dry off as quickly.
High humidity can be a tough climate to live in, especially during the hot summer months. When the air is humid, it’s harder for your body to keep cool because sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly.
This can lead to an uncomfortable feeling of perspiration and heat exhaustion.
Plus, high humidity causes water vapor to stick close to your skin, which makes your skin soft and supple but at the same time increases the risk of fungal infections like athlete’s foot or yeast infection.
It also leads to more static electricity in clothing and hair so you’ll be dealing with more flyaway strands!
Living with high humidity can be tough on people because sweat does not evaporate as quickly due to higher levels of moisture in the air which makes it harder for people’s bodies to keep cool during hot summer months.
Another effect of high humidity is that water vapor sticks close to peoples’ skin which may lead them into getting fungal infections such as athlete’s foot or yeast infections because they are taking in more moisture than they usually would do.
If there were low-humidity levels present in their environment; this increases one’s risk of these certain types of infections when living with higher temperatures near their home.
Biological contaminants are organisms that come from outside the environment, such as bacteria, mold, and viruses. They can enter through open doors and windows or cracks in the building.
They are a serious risk to indoor air quality because they can cause allergies and asthma attacks. Studies also show that people with COPD may experience worse symptoms because of biological contaminants in their homes.
The majority of allergenic materials found indoors are derived from animals or humans, while outdoor allergens originate primarily from plants.
Many common household weeds release airborne particles into indoor air that contain pollen grains (such as ragweed).
The presence of animals at home is another source of allergenic substances such as dander (pet skin), saliva, hair, urine, and fecal matter which accumulate on surfaces inside t
“Biological contaminants include bacteria, molds, mildew, viruses, animal dander …contaminated central air handling systems can become breeding grounds for mold, mildew, and other sources of biological contaminants and can then distribute these contaminants through the home (source: epa.gov/mold ).”
What Causes Biological Contaminants?
Biological contaminants are a major cause of air pollution. The most common biological contaminants are bacteria and viruses, followed by mold spores and pollen.
Biological contaminants, or “biomagnifications,” occur when chemical pollutants build up in an organism’s tissues, which can then get passed on to the organisms it comes into contact with.
For this reason, microbiological testing is used to help identify the sources of airborne pathogens.
Some of the causes of biological contaminants include water runoff from improper personal hygiene such as sneezing or coughing without covering your mouth or nose;
- food handlers not washing their hands after using the toilet;
- animal feces spreading through human sewage disposal systems that are not properly constructed, and
- improperly composted animal manure that is stored outside before being transported back to a farm for use as fertilizer.
How Can I Tell If My Home Has A Problem?
“Be aware of the presence of odors that signify excessive moisture or mold growths. If you notice a musty smell in your house, contact a qualified inspector to determine the source.”
“Mold growth, which often looks like spots, can be many different colors and can smell musty. If you can see or smell mold, a health risk may be present.” – CDC (Center for Disease Control)
How is biological contamination prevented?
The best way to control the spread of infectious diseases is through good personal hygiene.
A few ways that people can practice this are by washing their hands thoroughly with soap and water, not touching their nose or mouth, and staying away from sick people.
Biological contamination is prevented by using an autoclave, which heats the object to a high temperature.
Autoclaves are used to sterilize surgical instruments and other equipment that could be contaminated with bacteria. When biological contamination is present, it can cause severe health problems such as respiratory illnesses and septicemia.
The Basic Benefits of Healthy Air website suggests that you might want to keep your house ventilated in order to help prevent biological contamination.