sick building

Sick building syndrome

Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a combination of ailments (a syndrome) associated with an individual's place of work (office building) or residence. A 1984 World Health Organization report into the syndrome suggested up to 30% of new and remodelled buildings worldwide may be linked to symptoms of SBS. Most of the sick building syndrome is related to poor indoor air quality.

Sick building causes are frequently pinned down to flaws in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Other causes have been attributed to contaminants produced by outgassing of some types of building materials, volatile organic compounds, molds (see mold health issues), improper exhaust ventilation of light industrial chemicals used within, or fresh-air intake location / lack of adequate air filtration (see Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value).

Symptoms are often dealt with after-the-fact by boosting the overall turn-over rate of fresh air exchange with the outside air, but the new green building design goal should be to avoid most of the SBS problem sources in the first place, minimize the ongoing use of VOC cleaning compounds, and eliminate conditions that encourage allergenic, potentially-deadly mold growth.

Symptoms

Building occupants complain of symptoms such as:

This is a shortened list, as over 50 possible symptoms are known. It is possible for a dozen sick occupants to report a surprising array of individual symptoms which may be dismissed as unconnected. The key to discovery is the increased incidence of illnesses in general with onset or exacerbation within a fairly close time frame - usually within a period of weeks. Some sources will insist that for SBS to exist, these symptoms must disappear soon after the occupants go outside. However, this view discounts the lingering effects of various neurotoxins, which may not clear up when the occupant leaves the building. In particularly sensitive individuals, the potential for long-term health effects cannot be overlooked.

Causes

The contributing factors often relate to the design of the built environment, and may include combinations of some or all of the following:

To the owner or operator of a "sick building", the symptoms may include high levels of employee sickness or absenteeism, lower productivity, low job satisfaction and high employee turnover.

Prevention

  • Pollutant source removal or modification to storage of sources.
  • Replacement of water-stained ceiling tiles and carpeting.
  • Institution of smoking restrictions.
  • Use paints, adhesives, solvents, and pesticides in well ventilated areas, and use of these pollutant sources during periods of non-occupancy.
  • Increase the number of air exchanges, The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Engineers recommend a minimum of 8.4 air exchanges per 24 hour period.
  • Proper and frequent maintenance of HVAC systems

See also

Notes

References

  • Martín-Gil J, Yanguas MC, San José JF, Rey-Martínez and Martín-Gil FJ. "Outcomes of research into a sick hospital". Hospital Management International, 1997, pp 80-82. Sterling Publications Limited.

External links

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