Indoor Air Quality: The Truth About Sick Building SyndromeThe term, “Indoor Air Quality” (IAQ), is a commonly used everyday phrase that is generally well understood by nearly everyone. But do you know how and why the phrase became a popular term in our everyday lexicon? It stems from a bout of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), a dirty little secret which, during the 1980’s and 90’s was estimated to affect approximately 30 percent of all public buildings worldwide. Review our Sick Building Syndrome Q & A, and contact Performance Industrial for more information on how to keep your staff and employees safe and healthy:
Q. What exactly is Sick Building Syndrome?A. SBS is a condition occurring in an office, factory or other commercial building, which creates unhealthy indoor air quality. Some people who work daily in an affected building may report symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, burning, irritated eyes, or upper respiratory problems. The symptoms typically disappear when a person is away from the building and they return when the person re-enters the building.
Q. What are some of the causes of Sick Building Syndrome?A. SBS can be caused by a number of factors including, but not limited to the following:
- Chemicals such as paint, carpet adhesives, fumes from printers and other office equipment;
- Poor ventilation and air circulation;
- Biological contaminants such a mold, mildew and pollen;
- Pollutants from externals sources, such as truck or vehicle exhaust, which can be sucked into the building’s air intake system.
Q. What are the consequences of SBS for my business?A. The consequences of SBS are as numerous as the types of businesses they it may affect. If, for example, you operate a motel or hotel with biological contaminants in the ductwork, you run the risks of sickening your guests, as well as your employees. (Remember Legionnaire’s Disease?) Absenteeism and loss of key employees is another potentially huge and costly consequence of SBS. Loss of productivity, lowered office morale, and loss of efficiencies reduce your bottom line and, possibly even your company’s reputation.
Q. What can I do to prevent or eliminate SBS in the workplace?A. Here are some simple and potentially cost-savings steps you can take to ensure that your building will not have to hide its “dirty little secret.”
- The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) ventilation standards requires that office spaces provide a minimum of 20 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of outdoor air per person. Make sure that your building meets these standards.
- Make sure that areas of your office where chemicals are present, such as printer ink, cleaning substances and other chemicals, are well-ventilated and are not located in proximity to your building’s external air intake systems.
- Installation of plants in your office environment can actually improve indoor air quality. Plants absorb toxins from the atmosphere, processing them and releasing clean oxygen back into the work environment.
- Hiring a professional to regularly inspect, clean and maintain your building’s HVAC systems, including air intake systems, ductwork and coils will go a long way toward ensuring that your employees will come to work feeling healthy and leave that way too!