sick building syndrome Archives - Baxter Environmental Group Inc

How Much Time Do You Really Spend At Home?

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School and Office

Most of a person’s life is spent in school or in the workplace.  Let’s explore the effects of poor indoor air quality in school or at work…


Whether in an aging building or in a newly constructed building, indoor air quality affects our health, productivity, concentration.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Poor indoor air quality can impact the comfort and health of students and staff, which in turn, can affect concentration, attendance and student performance.  In addition, if schools fail to respond promptly to poor Indoor Air Quality, students and staff are at an increased risk of short-term health problems, such as fatigue and nausea, as well as long-term problems like asthma.”


Poor indoor air quality is caused by a wide range of contaminants, including:

  • mold and mold spores,
  • volatile organic compounds,
  • pesticides,
  • animal dander,
  • radon,
  • carbon monoxide,
  • carbon dioxide
  • asbestos fibers,
  • lead dust,
  • bacteria and viruses,
  • pollen, and
  • dust mites.

Signs and situations that health complaints may be originating from poor indoor air quality are:

  • recent dust and debris were created by renovations,
  • the aging building is not maintained, allowing for leaks or air drafts,
  • working with new materials of equipment,
  • use of new chemicals for work or cleaning,
  • new animals are introduced to the environment,
  • smoking in or near the building is permitted, and/or
  • new construction and furnishings are releasing high levels of volatile organic compounds.

Signs of “sick building syndrome” would be:

  • health complaints associated with specific times of the day or week,
  • similar problems being experienced by multiple occupants, and/or
  • the health concerns end when the occupants leave the building.

A plan to remedy the causes behind these health affects must be addressed at the source.  Eliminate the source, eliminate the health issues.  Just like a toothache is a symptom of a tooth cavity, contamination is a symptom cause by a source or building problem.  One good example is that mold is a symptom of a moisture problem.  Address the moisture problem, remediate the mold and return the environment to a healthy environment for the occupants.

What is Acceptable Air Quality?

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indoor air quality


What is Acceptable Indoor Air Quality?

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers was founded in 1894.  This building technology society focuses on building systems, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality.  Known as ASHRAE, this group publishes well-recognized standards and guidelines relating to HVAC systems and indoor air quality which engineers, mechanical contractors, architects and government agencies draw upon.


ASHRAE defines acceptable indoor air quality as:  “air toward which a substantial majority of occupants express no dissatisfaction with respect to odor and sensory irritation and in which there are not likely to be contaminants at concentrations that are known to pose a health risk.”


So, how is UNACCEPTABLE or ACCEPTABLE Indoor Air Quality determined?  Sometimes it is quite easy . . . if the home reeks of cat urine, smells musty from mold, smells of gas fumes, or the walls feel damp with moisture, the indoor air quality is obviously unacceptable.  Where it gets tricky is identifying the causes of symptoms such as headaches, nausea or runny nose that appear to be building-related.  And, then there are the dangerous contaminants that can only be identified to specialized testing, such as radon or carbon dioxide.


Things that impact the quality of our indoor air could be radon gas, pets, cigarette smoking, gas from gas ranges, off-gases from portable propane heaters, moisture, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, lead dust, ozone, allergens, dust, pollen and odors.  Most factors that lead to poor indoor air quality can be identified and addressed through regularly scheduled home assessments and proper home maintenance performed by the home owner.  Specialized testing usually requires a certified or licensed individual to perform.


Acceptable indoor air quality leads to a healthier environment and healthy lives for the home or building occupant.  A once a year inspection of your property can not only improve the health of your home, but the health of those who share the home.