What is a Sick Building? Indoor air pollution and sick buildings with indoor air problems by Stan Halpern, Environmental Cleaning Consultant

Reactions to various allergic triggers, known as "allergens" in the indoor work environment or a school building is known as "Sick" Building Syndrome. A list of these allergic triggers reads like an inventory of creation, including life's sustenance (certain foods); perils (insect bites or stings), and inescapable realities ( irritant dust, mold & mildew, and chemical residues ). Whatever forms allergen take, an allergy-sufferer's body always makes the same strategic error: IT REACTS AS IF UNDER ATTACK BY DISEASE-CAUSING PATHOGENS. The warning signs or symptoms are quite familiar to anyone who has suffered from a cold or flu. Additionally, harsh reactions to chemical residues or vapors within the work place is known as ' Multiple Chemical Sensitivity' (M.C.S.). Both conditions may begin to develop as exposure to such allergens in the indoor and outdoor environments develop and worsen. Each year, allergens account for more than 10 million Americans missing workdays and keeps 10,000 children out of school each day!! What most people perceive as an actual disease caused by bacteria or virus making them sick IS, in reality, the reaction of their bodies interfacing with a "SICK" work environment.

Over the past several decades, our exposure to indoor air pollutants is believed to have increased due to a variety of factors, including the construction of more tightly sealed buildings, reduced ventilation rates to save energy, the use of synthetic building materials and furnishings, and the use of chemically formulated personal care products, pesticides, and household cleaners. In recent years, comparative risk studies performed by the EPA and its Science Advisory Board, (SAB) have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the TOP five environmental risks to public health. EPA, in close cooperation with other Federal agencies and the private sector, is actively involved in a concerted effort to better understand indoor air pollution, and to reduce people's exposure to air pollutants in offices, homes, and schools and other indoor environments where people live, work, and play. Failure to prevent indoor air problems, or failure to respond promptly, can have consequences such as:

    Increasing the potential for long and short term health problems for building occupants.
    Impacting the productivity of fellow employees to perform their work, or a school student to learn due to "sickness".
    Decreasing the comfort zone of the work environment
    Increasing absenteeism at the workplace, or student attendance.
    Accelerating deterioration and reducing efficiency of the physical plant and equipment.
    Increasing the POTENTIAL that a facility will have to be closed, or occupant temporarily relocated; both are mandated by a health authority due to poor quality of air.
    Straining relationships between management and employees, and between employee and employee.
    Creating negative publicity that could affect a corporate image through adverse publicity;(or school district's image and/or an administrations good standing in the community.)
    Creating potential liability problems and unnecessary lawsuits.

Go to: 'Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law' Committees website http://www.abanet.org/rppt/rpm2/iaqgen.html

Basic Information: Visit http://www.epa.gov/iaq EPA : Why Should You Be Concerned About the Quality of the Air You Breathe!

The EPA's Fact Sheet-Ventilation and Air Quality in Offices form provides a detailed factual description of indoor air quality issues related to ventilation. Also, links to other sources and related government sites.

The National Safety Council Indoor Air (top page) contains fact sheets on many substances which cause quality problems, and educational materials regarding indoor air quality generally.

NIOSH-Topics page-Indoor Air Quality provides many links to topics such as action plans for building air quality, to guides for building owners and facility managers, and to items such as indoor environmental quality fact sheets.
Visit: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/iaqpg.html