VOC Mitigation The Rx for Sick Building Syndrome
Suzanne was excited to start a new job at a large downtown law firm. But within a week of being there, she began to have a chronic cough. At first, she thought she was coming down with a cold. It seemed to be going around the office.
As the weeks went by, the cough stayed with her. Quite a few other employees seemed to be no better, either. Worse yet, Suzanne’s eyes began to swell up and she had a headache most of the time. Then, about an hour after getting back home, she’d begin to feel better. The cough would subside, her eyes would start to feel normal and the headache would go away.
Although it seemed crazy, Suzanne started to think she was allergic to her new job—or at least the building. Turns out her experience isn’t as bizarre as it may seem. All across America, there are older office buildings, factories, warehouses and industrial plants with Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). Although it’s really the employees who work in them that are getting sick.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a range of symptoms exhibited by occupants of a building. These symptoms are typified by an overall feeling of ill health and include headaches, respiratory problems (coughing, irritated throat, asthma attacks), eye irritation, and even changes in personality.
There is usually no single known source for the SBS symptoms. Often, it can’t even be determined what the cause for the illnesses is. When those affected by it begin to feel “normal” again shortly after leaving the building, it is clear the cause is something within the building.
Top Three Causes Of Sick Building Syndrome
These can come from outside sources such as vehicle exhaust from a nearby parking garage or heavily traveled road, as well as things like formaldehyde, toluene, asbestos and radon entering through intake vents and other openings in a building. Often, these contaminants are in the ground and enter through small openings in the foundation of a building. Indoor sources of chemical contaminants can include VOCs released by carpeting, manufactured wood products, cleaning fluids, copy machines (and other office equipment) and even cologne and other personal care products worn by employees.
Fungus, mold, bacteria, pollen that enters the building through ventilation systems or on people—these are all known biological contaminants that qualify as Volatile Organic Compounds. Typical effects of exposure include coughing, eye and throat irritation, fever, chills and overall achiness. As you can imagine, sealed up office buildings depending on recirculating air conditioning systems to maintain a comfortable environment are breeding grounds for the pathogens that accumulate.
Back in 1970, the Arab oil embargo motivated architects to design more airtight buildings to improve energy efficiency. Seemed like a good idea, until it became apparent such buildings were exceedingly unhealthy. With a ventilation rate of 5 cfm/person, it wasn’t long before “Sick Building Syndrome” entered the vocabulary. Subsequently, it was determined that the minimum ventilation standard for outdoor air flow was 15 cfm/person. In larger office buildings, 20 cfm/person is the minimum.
VOC Mitigation The Key To A Healthy Workplace Environment
While an improved ventilation system is always an immense help, there often so many factors causing toxic air inside a building that the only way to make a significant improvement is with a VOC mitigation system.
Lifetime Radon Solutions designs custom VOC mitigation systems for both businesses and homes throughout southeast Wisconsin. Using the sub-slab depressurization technique of our radon mitigation systems, we are able to draw accumulated toxins in a building out through a PVC tubing system. It is a simply, but highly effective way to remove many of these toxins. When combined with modifications to the ventilation system, indoor air quality is dramatically improved.
We install VOC mitigation systems for businesses of all sizes—from small auto paint shops to large office buildings, throughout all of southeast Wisconsin. The technology we use is proven effective, and the difference it makes in the lives of those who work in these buildings is incredible.