We often talk about healthy living and quality of life, but have you considered the quality of the air you breathe. Most of us spend up to 90 percent of our time indoors, according to many surveys. Breathing polluted air puts you at a high risk for a number of respiratory disease and health effects. We know toxins affect our health but what are these pollutants coming from?
When people complain about health problems caused by their home or office, and investigators can’t figure out why, it is often labeled as sick building syndrome (SBS). SBS is comprised of various nonspecific symptoms that plague its occupants. It is related to both personal and environmental risk factors.
What can it do to me?
These mystery toxins can cause a variety of health symptoms similar to mold exposure or the other high-ranking hazards. These mystery toxins can include insulation, rodent droppings and other kinds of allergens, dust particles, odors, and chemicals. Mold and water damage is among the most persistent toxin exposure source. Mold spores may have dried up and fragmented into small pieces that are undetectable by scientific testing. The particles nonetheless are still present, allergenic, and affect health.
Causes of Sick Building Syndrome
Many house and commercial buildings are affected by SDS. There are many causes for this affliction:
• Inadequate ventilation
• Poorly maintained air-conditioning
• Technical equipment such as printers, computers, etc.
• Furniture, floor coverings and wall paints
• Contaminants from the outside air
Common symptoms of being active in a sick building include:
• Chest pains
• Mental changes (problems with concentration, memory, moods)
• Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
Where is it?
The sources of mystery toxins are usually not out in the open and clearly visible. They penetrate the living and working spaces from inside wall-cavities, below flooring, and above the ceiling. Often, they are brought in from the air-conditioning and heating system.
Get rid of it!
Studies have shown that a thorough investigation of the heating and air-conditioning system can help to resolve 80% of complaints related to the indoor environment (Hansen).
One study found that 70% of sick buildings simply have inadequate flows of fresh air. Ventilation can be as simple as opening windows. Our traditional way to improve poor indoor air quality is to increase ventilation to purge the contaminants. This works well for volatile organic chemicals and bio-effluents like CO2 and odors.
Hansen, Shirley J., Ph.D. Managing Indoor Air quality. The Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA, 1991, p. 181, 207.
Kail, Konrad, M.D. Allergy Free, An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide. Alternative Medicine.com, Tiburon, California, 2000, pg. 142.