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Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)

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  • Post published:February 27, 2020
  • Post category:IAQ

The term of the sick building syndrome was created in 1987, it is cataloged to the discomfort and acute discomfort that seem to be related to the time spent in a building, and that cannot be attributed to a specific disease or cause.

They are signs of the “sick building syndrome“:

  • The presence of acute symptoms, such as irritation of eyes, nose and throat, dry skin, cough, hoarseness and wheezing, nausea and dizziness, difficulty concentrating, tiredness and sensitivity to odors.
  • The fact that most of the discomfort disappears shortly after leaving the building.
  • Ignorance of the cause: the symptoms cannot be attributed to a disease contracted outside the building, or to work-related stress or dissatisfaction, or other psychosocial factors. But it has been proven that the symptoms are related to indoor air quality.

The main causes of sick building syndrome are motivated to inadequate control of the following factors and parameters:

  • External Ventilation Outlets.
  • Air distribution
  • Volatile Organic Components “VOC’s” inside.
  • Biological Compounds (bacteria, viruses, fungi…) “mVOC’s.
  • External chemical contaminants (from motor vehicles or outside ventilation pipes) and Indoor.
  • Internal humidity.
  • Internal temperature.
  • Bio-Aerosols and other Particles: pollens, tobacco smoke, dust, etc.
  • Carbon Monoxide.
  • Carbon Dioxide.
  • The electropolution.

Inadequate ventilation: the energy crisis of the 70s led builders to design buildings with greater energy efficiency; that is, more isolated and with less external ventilation. The ventilation standard per person was reduced to 0.14 m3 / min. (The previous standard -0.42- was based primarily on dilution and elimination of body odors and was the first standard established in 1962 by ASHRAE). The increase in discomfort and health problems caused by this reduction caused the standards to increase again: it is currently considered that ventilation per minimum person should be 0.42 m3 / min. (0.56 m3 / min. In offices); In spaces such as smoking rooms, ventilation per person may have to reach up to 1.70 m3 / min. (ASHRAE Standard 62-1989). Inadequate ventilation can also result from problems in the distribution of air induced by heaters, fans and air conditioning.

Among the internal chemical pollutants, volatile organic compounds (including formaldehyde) and particles in general stand out. The main sources of indoor chemical pollutants are: tobacco smoke; combustion products, glues, varnishes, photocopiers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, dust, etc.

The solution to the sick building syndrome usually leads to several measures that can be summarized as: identification, elimination or control of the contaminating source (dust in various places, smoking restriction, periodic cleaning of filters, changes of paints and carpets, storage of potentials toxic only in ventilated rooms, use them when the building is more empty …), increase in ventilation rates, daily and scheduled air cleaning, improvement of our organic defenses, along with education and communication about the problem.