Sick Building Syndrome Symptoms

Is your home or office the reason for your health issues? Sick building syndrome occurs when the indoor air within a building reaches pollution levels sufficient enough to cause illness or disease within its occupants.

This syndrome is unfortunately much more common than most people realize and it still exists today in homes and work places throughout the United States and Canada. The Sick building phenomenon was first recognized in 1984 when the World Health Organization officially concluded that the polluted air within homes and work places was indeed causing the occupants of those buildings to become ill.

Sick building syndrome symptoms may include one or any combination of these negative health symptoms: Sneezing, coughing, sore throat, difficulty breathing, sore or irritated eyes, headache, dizziness, stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, confusion or difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering things, earaches, congestion, skin rash or itch, intolerance to heat or cold, uncomfortableness or irritability, muscle or joint stiffness, muscle or joint pain, fatigue, chest pain, or unusual heart palpitations.

Children, the elderly, and those with chronic illness, or a weakened immune system may be more susceptible to the effect of indoor toxins. These individuals also tend to spend more time indoors.

Indoor Pollutants and the Possible Cause of Illness Symptoms

If the air in your home or office is contaminated you may be breathing in formaldehyde, asbestos, lead dust, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, mildew, mold, radon gas, second hand smoke, pet dander, dust mites, bacteria, or other indoor pollutants. You usually cannot see or smell these toxins yet they could be in your home or workplace making you sick. 

So where does all this indoor pollution come from? Common household products, furnishings, and construction materials release invisible and toxic gases into the air around them. 

Items such as carpets, household cleaning products, manufactured wood products, paint, printer inks, varnish, glues, and many other products that are stored within the home or used in its construction release their components into the air around them.

If these contaminants have no way of being diffused outward then they simply combine with the multitude of other indoor pollutants and accumulate within the building. Bacteria, mildew, and molds multiply. If the building does not have access to sufficient fresh air exchange then the indoor air becomes increasingly polluted and the people within the building get sick.

The 1973 Oil Embargo and its Connection to Sick Building Syndrome

In the early 1900's and throughout the mid 1900's building standards code required 15 cubic feet of fresh air per minute per person for appropriate ventilation within buildings. 

The 1973 oil embargo and the resulting energy crisis changed all this. The price of oil increased sharply and with oil shortages being threatened worldwide legislation to conserve oil stocks was quickly enacted. One of these new regulations was a set of building standards code which was put in place to insure that buildings would be as energy efficient as they could be.

New energy conservation measures were implemented in the 1970's. The amount of fresh air ventilation within buildings was reduced from the current 15 cubic feet per minute per person to a mere 5 cubic feet of air per minute per person. Newly constructed and renovated homes, offices, and schools, were to follow the new standards set out to insure that these buildings would be much more airtight. 

It was believed that the new building standard codes would insure that buildings required less heating and cooling costs so would therefore be more energy efficient. What no one could foresee then was that these new building code standards rather than being of benefit during the oil crisis would instead served to trap bacteria and other pollutants within these buildings. The trapped contaminants then had the opportunity to multiply and rise to dangerous levels.

It was this contaminated indoor air which then caused the people within these buildings to become ill. The people who lived and worked within these newly renovated or newly built buildings began complaining of a wide variety of sometimes vague symptoms. For most of these individuals who were initially exposed to sick building syndrome their symptoms alleviated somewhat upon leaving the affected building. For many others the illness symptoms lasted for lengthy periods after the initial exposure. Sick building syndrome had officially arrived.

In 1984 the World Health Organization released an official report on the possible symptoms and causes of this new illness. The mysterious symptoms affecting thousands of people were officially termed sick building syndrome and acknowledged as a very real medical issue. The World Health Organization was now acknowledging that the air people were being exposed to within their homes and workplaces was poisoning them. It was estimated that up to thirty percent of all newly renovated, or newly built homes and offices had the ability to cause sick building syndrome.

Radon Gas is the Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer

In 1989 the "American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers" revised it's building standards to increase the fresh air ventilation within homes and businesses. The new recommendations were for a minimum allowable ventilation of 15 cubic meters of fresh air per minute per person within buildings. It was also recommended that the amount of fresh air ventilation be increased even further in offices and schools where large numbers of individuals would be, and also within smoking, or other more likely to be polluted establishments.

What You Can do to Prevent Sick Building in Your Home

*In addition to having a smoke detector installed in your home set up a carbon monoxide detector to help insure your home's air is safe.

*Test for radon gas in your home.

*Store paint, varnish, glues, garden products, and other possible contaminants outside of your living space. These items can leach fumes into the air you and your family breath. The garage or shed is where they should be kept.

*Use more natural household cleaners such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon, and green tea rather than potentially dangerous household cleaners.

*Try to get some fresh air daily. Go for a walk more often.

*Keep a window in your home open at least 1/2 inch all year round. 

*Use an air purifier to help remove fine particulate and other toxins from your indoor air. These come in a variety of sizes to suit every need so you can clean the air in one room at a time or throughout the entire home depending on the unit you select.

* Use dust mite covers on your beds. Wash sheets at least once a week and blankets every month or two. Vacuum frequently to keep dust mites and their droppings in check.

*If your home or workplace was built during the mid to late 1970's, or early to mid 1980's, you should check the fresh air ventilation of your furnace and other indoor ventilation systems. Buildings built during the energy conservation standards period are still very much in use today.

Use Environmentally Friendly Cleaners When Possible

There are many green household cleaning products available at your local store. Read the label and purchase your products wisely. If you want to create your own that is quite easy as well. Baking soda, lemon, and vinegar are common products that can do many household cleaning jobs without leaving a toxic trail from their use. 

Green tea has antibacterial properties so not only is it good for you to drink but it is also useful as an environmentally friendly all natural household cleanser. Steeping one cup of green tea leaves in one quart of boiling water for fifteen minutes will make an effective green tea cleaning solution. 

Store the green tea solution in your refrigerator till you are ready to use it. The antibacterial properties in green tea make it an ideal cleaning solution. Simply apply the green tea spray on any surface which needs cleaning and then easily wipe off excess moisture with a damp cloth. The antibacterial properties within Green Tea will kill bacteria as it cleans. Economical and environmentally friendly.

Related Articles by Lorelei Cohen

*Fun Area Play Rugs for Children's Home Decor