Sick Buildings: Poor Air Quality Where We Work

What is a Sick Building?

As our buildings and homes became more energy efficient and better insolated and we started to use synthetic rather than natural building materials, the quality of the air we breathe began to deteriorate. Research by the EPA and other experts states that there may be over 100 toxic fumes and gases present in our indoor atmosphere. In extreme cases, places where we work & live have such high amount of these toxins that people become physically ill, suffering from a variety of acute medical and comfort problems such as: headaches, fatigue, nausea, sore throat eye irritation, dry or itchy skin, dizziness, difficulty in concentrating. When a person leaves the building, these symptoms will disappear. This combination of ailments has been given the name Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). SBS causes a great deal of absenteeism, lower productivity, and a greater employee turnover.

Where do these toxic vapors come from?

1. Inadequate ventilation is part of the problem

2. Some of the worst indoor air toxins, benzene, formaldehyde, and  trichloroethylene come from common things in the building such as: plastics, carpeting, upholstery, copy machines, inks, paint, detergents,  pesticides, adhesives, and manufactured wood products.

3. Biological contaminants such as pollen, mold, bacteria, and viruses breed in the stagnant water that accumulates in humidifiers, ducts, ceilings,  carpets, or tiles


There are several ways to eliminate pollutants from the air in a building. I’ll mention a few briefly, and then show you in our next blog how easy and inexpensive it is to use green plants for this purpose.

1. Eliminate smoking in or around the outside of the building

       2. Increase ventilation by increasing the number of air exchanges (8.4 exchanges per 24 hours is recommended)

       3. Use paints, pesticides, solvents, and adhesives in well- ventilated areas; use of these pollutants when the building is unoccupied is an even better idea.

Check out my next blog to learn all about plants that clean the air.