Sick Building Syndrome and the Workplace

23mmx sick building and the workplace

Sick Building Syndrome has become one of the hottest topics around the workplace, and while exact definitions of the term vary, it generally relates to poor air quality within a working environment.

It can be caused by everything from the growth of molds within ventilation systems to fumes given off by remodeling or improperly stored chemicals.

Common symptoms range from such things as headaches, eye, nose or throat irritation, dry cough, dry or itchy skin, dizziness and nausea, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and extra sensitivity to odors. In rare instances it can be fatal.

Usually sick building syndrome is associated with commercial buildings, but residential homes can also trigger symptoms as well.

Experts say that Sick Building Syndrome is the result of creating energy-efficient buildings after the first oil embargo in 1973. As the nation scrambled to cut its dependence on foreign oil, many buildings were built with sealed windows to reduce heat and energy loss.

Sick Building Syndrome describes a phenomenon whereby occupants of a building would become ill without explanation, and then the symptoms would appear to decrease or go away altogether once they left the building.

Sick Building Syndrome and the Workplace

Improvements in energy efficiency and bulding design may be the major contributors of the problem. Indoor air pollution, biological contaminants such as bacteria and mold and inadequate ventilation have all contributed to a rise in SBS in recent years.

Adhesives, upholstery, carpeting, copiers, manufactured wood products, cleaning agents and pesticides are some sources of indoor air pollution. Also, according to the EPA, outdoor pollutants such as car exhaust can enter buildings through poorly located air intake vents and windows and become trapped indoors.

Compounding the problem is the fact that people are spending more and more time indoors, and building materials, furniture and equipment contain many more synthetic chemicals than they did years ago. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that newer, tightly sealed buildings raised the risk of respiratory sickness by 45 percent.

Not everyone is convinced though, that Sick Building Syndrome is responsible for all the ills laid at its door.

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