The Science of Sick Building Syndrome
Sick Building Syndrome, or SBS, refers to a condition where a building makes its occupants sick. Toxins and allergens are the most common cause of SBS. Mold, which may produce allergens or toxins, is the single most common cause.
One type of mold – Stachybotrys chartarum – has been implicated in SBS more than any other substance. Also known as black mold or toxic mold, Stachybotrys releases toxins into the air. Common symptoms including headaches, shortness of breath, and fatigue, although much more serious conditions may result.
“It’s become notorious as a toxic fungus that can cause health problems in humans and animals,” Professor Berlin Nelson of North Dakota State University told ScienceDaily. “Over the past 20 years in North America, evidence has accumulated implicating this fungus as a serious problem in water damaged homes and buildings. The fungus is commonly found in homes or buildings which have sustained flooding, or water damage from broken pipes, roof leaks, sewage backups, condensation, etc.”
Toxic mold can grow on sheetrock, wallpaper, ceiling tiles, paper products, carpets with natural fibers, paper covering on insulated pipes, insulation material, on wood, and on general organic debris.
“Because leaks can occur behind walls and in covered ceiling areas, the fungus may grow profusely, but not be readily visible,” said Nelson.
If you suspect that toxic mold is growing in your home or workplace, immediately contact a mold remediation professional. If your home or workplace floods, immediately contact a water damage restoration company to prevent mold growth; make sure that the company has commercial grade restoration equipment.
Other reported causes of SBS include indoor air pollution, artificial fragrances, poor ventilation, and chemical contamination. Air purifiers will eliminate sick building syndrome in many cases. Dehumidifiers will keep humidity low enough so that mold cannot grow.
Poor or inappropriate lighting can also cause SBS, especially in the workplace. Inadequate lighting may cause fatigue, depression, and increased absences. Let in as much natural sunlight as possible, and install full spectrum lighting to combat this problem.