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Indoor Air Quality – Are you sick from Sick Building Syndrome?

By Fraser Allport

Indoor Air Quality – Are you ill because of “Sick Building Syndrome?”
Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers
Do You Suspect Your Office Has an Indoor Air Problem ?

When people hear about “Going Green,” they think of Energy and Water Efficiency, Solar and Wind Power, Sustainability and Rainwater Harvesting, etc. But one of the often-neglected components of the Green movement is Indoor Air Quality. Think about it – you are breathing every single second of your entire life. The question is – what are you breathing ?

As the public recognizes the importance of healthy, comfortable, and productive indoor environments, their awareness and demand for good indoor air quality (IAQ) increases. This demand has resulted in IAQ emerging as a major concern in office buildings. Many office buildings have significant indoor air pollution sources. These sources include furnishings, occupant activities, housekeeping practices, pesticide applications and microbial contamination.

A factor greatly influencing the effect of these sources and the overall quality of indoor air in offices is the ventilation system design, operation and maintenance. People generally have less control over the indoor environment in their offices than they do in their homes. As a result, there are large numbers of reported health problems associated with office buildings.

What You Can’t See … Can Hurt You

Among the most prevalent of all indoor air constituents are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with as many as 100 to 1,000 different VOCs in the air where children can easily inhale them. Volatile organic compounds are emitted from a wide variety of sources, including building materials, home furnishings, paint, carpets, air fresheners, and personal care, and cleaning products and processes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates that indoor air pollution, commonly called Sick Building Syndrome, cost businesses $60 billion annually due to worker illnesses. Occupants of sick buildings complain of eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, dry cough, dry or itchy skin, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, and sensitivity to odors, according to the EPA. Relief does not always occur when the occupant leaves the building.

Other building-related illnesses include sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma, humidifier fever, dermatitis, Legionnaire’s Disease and Pontiac Fever. The rise of autism and asthma is often attributed to the chemicals in sick buildings.

The National Academy of Sciences recommends that indoor air pollution standards be set for the workplace, homes, and schools.

Particulates: Size is Everything

Particulates are particles that are small enough to suspend in the air. Suspended inorganic particles, such as metals (lead, mercury); dust; pollen; asbestos and other fibers; car, bus and truck exhaust; or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and other types of smoke such as from fire places and cooking, are often referred to as aerosols. Suspended organic compounds and small living organisms, such as bacteria and viruses; mold spores and pieces of mold colonies; dust mite feces and body fragments; cockroach body parts; and dander from cats, dogs and other mammals, are called bio-aerosols (McDonald and Ouyang 2000). Allergens, associated with grasses, pollen, dogs, cats, dust mites, cockroaches and mice to name a few common examples, also fall into this category.

Particles can range in size from very small (0.001 μm to 10 μm), which can remain in the air for a long time, up to relatively large (100 μm), which quickly settle out of calm air (ALA Special Report on Air Cleaners). Inhaling particulates can cause eye, nose and throat irritation and increase the risk for respiratory infections. Health care professionals are especially concerned about the long-term effects of inhaling fine particles (less than 2.5 μm – also referred to as PM2.5 or fine PM), because they can travel deep into the lungs where they can remain embedded for years or be absorbed into the bloodstream. Inhalation of fine PM have been linked to increases in respiratory health problems such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and emphysema; hospitalization for heart or lung disease; and even premature death.

EPA’s Building Air Quality Action Plan

The Building Air Quality Action Plan, developed by the EPA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, provides practical suggestions on preventing, identifying, and resolving indoor air quality (IAQ) problems in public and commercial buildings.

The Building Air Quality Action Plan meets the needs of building owners and managers who want an easy-to-understand path for taking their building from current conditions and practices to the successful institutionalization of good IAQ management practices. It emphasizes changing how you operate and maintain your building, not increasing the amount of work or cost of maintaining your building. The BAQ Action Plan follows 8 logical steps and includes a 100-item Checklist that is designed to help verify implementation of the Action Plan.

Download A Free Copy of The Air Quality Action Plan by pasting this link into your browser :

Sources :

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
AERIAS Air Quality Sciences ( )

Fraser Allport is the owner of Energy, Water and Taxes, a green company that focuses on helping businesses lower their bills through the use of green technologies. To learn more about Fraser, visit his Web site or click here to read more about Fraser on

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Posted by Andrea Freygang on Jan 18 2010. Filed under Broward County, Emerging Green, Environmental, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale, Health, Local news. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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