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Learn about the causes and symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome, and how to eliminate and prevent brea

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Published: 01/02/2012 by Florida Air Duct Cleaners


Sick Building Syndrome: Signs, Symptoms and Solutions

While it is not unusual for a cold, bug or flu to spread throughout a small household or an entire office building, there are times when it may seem as if a collective illness is more than just a coincidence. In cases where the majority of a building's occupants have experienced any of the symptoms associated with Sick Building Syndrome, it may be time to have a health inspector assess the indoor air quality of the office or home in question.


What is Sick Building Syndrome?


Sick Building Syndrome, also known as SBS, is a health hazard phenomenon that was discovered in the 1970's, where indoor pollution was identified as the source for a myriad of health issues. Symptoms can range from minor irritations of the eyes, nose and throat, to more serious neurotoxic health effects. To properly identify a case of SBS, health officials must undertake a thorough assessment of the structure, the occupants and possible causes. They will then take samples of the indoor air within a structure and test for a variety of pathogens, chemicals and other microscopic debris.


Sick Building Syndrome is typically suspected after a majority of occupants report an acute onset of signs and symptoms, usually within weeks of one another, which are alleviated soon after leaving the premises. In addition to the mysterious signs and symptoms occupants may experience, health care professionals are unable to identify any underlying illness.


The Causes of Sick Building Syndrome


The causes of Sick Building Syndrome are as versatile as the symptoms it produces. The two most common causes for SBS are inadequate ventilation, and indoor and outdoor contaminants.


Ventilation standards have changed much in the past couple of decades, and many structures that were constructed prior to the new ventilation standards are at an increased risk of harboring contaminants. Inadequate ventilation can be attributed to fewer cubic feet per minute of outdoor air being circulated throughout a structure, as well as poor air circulation through HVAC systems.


Chemical and biological contaminants can also be the cause of Sick Building Syndrome related illnesses, and the sources of these contaminants can be indoor or outdoor pollutants. Volatile organic compounds, as well as carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide can be released from a variety of substances and spread throughout a structure.


In addition to hazardous chemical agents, natural toxins and biological contaminants can also cause occupants to fall ill. Mold and mildew may be a likely source of contamination after a structure has been subjected to water damage or inadequate ventilation. Viruses and bacteria may also be likely culprits, where microscopic organisms have taken refuge within the air supply system.


Resolutions for Sick Building Syndrome


After a health inspector has successfully identified the source of the problem, the structure must be properly cleaned and repaired to prevent future outbreaks. Some structures may require mold, bacteria or viral remediation to remove the source of the pollutants, while others may require the installation of additional ventilation ducts.


In addition to any necessary repairs, a structure must undergo a thorough cleaning of both surfaces and the air. Air scrubber machines may be used to rid the area of contaminants and air ducts should be cleaned professionally. A professional air duct cleaning is imperative for maintaining the air quality within a structure due to the fact that inadequately maintained air ducts restrict proper airflow and often become a breeding ground for contaminants.