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When Sick Building Syndrome Happens at the Workplace

The Environmental Protection Agency has been able to boast of improvements in outdoor air quality for some time now. Reductions in lead, carbon monoxide and other pollutants mean the best for breathing clean, fresh outdoor air. Great news all around. The one snag, of course, is that we spend 90 percent of our time indoors and with terms like Sick Building Syndrome and estimates that one in four new or renovated buildings are infected, the EPA has its work cut out.

Buildings At Risk For Poor Indoor Air Quality

Libraries, hospitals, call centers, none are immune, but office buildings seem to be the worst effected, especially ones near loading docks or parking garages, where carbon monoxide enters through fresh air intake vents. There are a number of indoor causes as well, usually coming from building materials or office supplies that emit small amounts of toxins. Paint, glues, upholstery, cleaning agents, chemically treated wood – all potentially giving off low doses of pollutants.

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

The term refers to a particular phenomenon, usually an untraceable illness, incepted from a building. It’s different from Building-Related Disease, which means there’s a culprit to be identified like an office bug going around, an illness that comes from mold or mildew, or infection that stems from germs and other free radicals either tied to the building components or human inhabitants.

No, Sick Building Syndrome isn’t that definitive, but it is more common. The symptoms are flu-like: fatigue, headache, stuffy nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, soar throat and they often disappear when the inhabitant leaves the building.

It’s believed to have originated in the late 1970’s energy crisis, when builders began to take energy costs in mind during construction. In efforts to curb those costs, new office buildings were made “tight” – windows that can’t open, high insulated walls, and a lowering of ventilation standards.

Building Healthcare Costs

Now, it’s believed that workers effected with these illnesses cause a loss in productivity to the tune of billions a year. Companies are taking notice. There has been a number of studies performed, yielding various takeaways: Some people’s symptoms were caused only by poor lighting and computer screen glare. A quick fix and none too costly. While others were linked to job stress and others from tar fu mes.

There are general steps, though that individual people and corporations can employ. Also, a certified HVAC technician can help do a thorough check to ensure the best indoor air quality possible.

Preventing Sick Building Syndrome

Here are steps offered by the EPA.

  • Do not block air vents or grilles.
  • All smoking should be done outside, far away from fresh air intake ducts and in compliance with your company’s smoking policy.
  • Take care of office plants. Dusty and dying plants do not help the air quality and over-watered plants develop mold.
  • Get rid of garbage promptly to prevent bio contamination.
  • Store food properly and clean the refrigerator out frequently to prevent mold.

Also, take a break every once in a while. Go out and get some fresh air on your lunch break. Get some sunlight. Studies point to an increase in student productivity when more work was done in natural sunlight. So if you can get outside, and take a bit of your work with, all the better. What else are South Florida winters for?

AAA Able Air Conditioning and Appliance Inc. has been working with building managers in South Florida for over thirty years. We’ve given thorough inspections and teach how-to techniques for checking ventilation, heating and cooling systems, along with humidifiers and air quality treatments.

We’re proud of the reputation we’ve earned, becoming the most trusted name in the community to handle all HVAC needs, commercial and residential. If you need same day service, any day of the week, and demand reliable and friendly advise contact us today for a free consultation.

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