Sick Building Syndrome

Without a doubt, the quality of air indoors is worse than outdoors. Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a term used to describe situations where the occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to the time spent in the building, but no specific illness or cause can be readily identified.

A 1984 World Health Organization Committee report suggested that up to 30% of new and remodelled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Cited causes, or contributing factors, of SBS include inadequate ventilation, chemical contaminants from indoor and outdoor sources, as well as, biological contaminants.

“Numerous studies have linked PM to aggravated cardiac and respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema and to various forms of heart disease. PM can also have adverse effects on vegetation and structures, and contributes to visibility deterioration and regional haze.
Efforts to address particulate matter (PM) levels in the air are important in both the United States and Canada. Canada and the United States have completed a joint transboundary particulate matter science assessment report in support of the Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement.”
Reference Link: Government of Canada

“Scientists in Canada and the US found that long-term exposure to PM2.5 significantly increased not only the chances of cardiopulmonary problems but also the mortality of lung cancers. Indeed a study conducted for 7 years (from 2000 to 2007) in the US indicated that the average life span was extended by 0.35 years for every 10 µg/m3 decrease of PM2.5.”
Reference Link: U.S. National Library of Medicine

“There is good evidence of the effects of short-term exposure to PM10 on respiratory health, but for mortality, and especially as a consequence of long-term exposure, PM2.5 is a stronger risk factor than the coarse part of PM10 (particles in the 2.5–10 µm range). All-cause daily mortality is estimated to increase by 0.2–0.6% per 10 µg/m3 of PM10. Long-term exposure to PM2.5 is associated with an increase in the long-term risk of cardiopulmonary mortality by 6–13% per 10 µg/m3 of PM2.5.”
Reference Link: World Health Organization

“When formaldehyde is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 ppm, some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no reaction to the same level of exposure.”
Reference Link: National Cancer Institute

“The primary way you can be exposed to formaldehyde is by breathing air containing off-gassed formaldehyde. Everyone is exposed to small amounts of formaldehyde in the air that has off-gassed from products, including composite wood products.”
Reference Link: EPA

“Formaldehyde is normally present at low levels, usually less than 0.03 parts per million (ppm), in both outdoor and indoor air. The outdoor air in rural areas has lower concentrations while urban areas have higher concentrations (due to sources such as automobile exhaust). Residences or offices that contain products that release formaldehyde into the air can have levels greater than 0.03 ppm. ”
Reference Link: CPSC

“Carbon monoxide can cause health problems before you even notice that it’s present. Breathing it in reduces your body’s ability to carry oxygen in your blood. Exposure to the gas can cause carbon monoxide poisoning (CO poisoning) and can be dangerous to your health.”
Reference Link: Government of Canada

“Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.”
Reference Link: National Center for Environmental Health

“Colourless gas. Odourless. EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE GAS. Distant ignition and flashback are possible. COMPRESSED GAS. Contains gas under pressure. May explode if heated. VERY TOXIC. Fatal if inhaled. Causes damage to blood. TERATOGEN/EMBRYOTOXIN. May damage the unborn child. May cause frostbite.”
Reference Link: CCOHS

“Higher indoor concentrations of air pollutants due, in part, to lower ventilation rates are a potential cause of sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms in office workers. The indoor carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration is an approximate surrogate for indoor concentrations of other occupant-generated pollutants and for ventilation rate per occupant.”
Reference Link: Reseachgate

“Occupants may experience health effects in buildings where CO2 is elevated, but the symptoms are usually due to the other contaminants in the air that also build up as a result of insufficient ventilation. At high levels, the carbon dioxide itself can cause headache, dizziness, nausea and other symptoms. This could occur when exposed to levels above 5,000 ppm for many hours. At even higher levels of CO2 can cause asphyxiation as it replaces oxygen in the blood-exposure to concentrations around 40,000 ppm is immediately dangerous to life and health. CO2 poisoning, however, is very rare.”
Reference Link: Minnesota Department of Health

“Volatile organic compounds are released from burning fuel, such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. They are also emitted from oil and gas fields and diesel exhaust. They are also released from solvents, paints, glues, and other products that are used and stored at home and at work.”
Reference Link: Tox Town

“The risk of health effects from inhaling any chemical depends on how much is in the air, how long and how often a person breathes it in. Breathing in low levels of VOCs for long periods of time may increase some people’s risk of health problems. Several studies suggest that exposure to VOCs may make symptoms worse for people with asthma or who are particularly sensitive to chemicals. These are much different exposures than occupational exposures.”
Reference Link: Minnesota Department of Health

“Radon is a radioactive gas found naturally in the environment. It is produced by the decay of uranium found in soil, rock or water. Radon is invisible, odorless and tasteless and emits ionizing radiation. As a gas, radon can move freely through the soil enabling it to escape to the atmosphere or seep into buildings. When radon escapes from the bedrock into the outdoor air, it is diluted to such low concentrations that it poses a negligible threat to health.”
Reference Link: Health Canada

“Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. On January 13, 2005, Dr. Richard H. Carmona, the U.S. Surgeon General, issued a national health advisory on radon.”
Reference Link: EPA

what to look for

Symptoms of poor indoor air quality are very broad and depend on the contaminant. They can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other illnesses such as allergies, stress, colds and influenza.

If you notice relief from your symptoms soon after leaving a particular room or building, your symptoms may be caused by indoor air contaminants.

“Clean and neat.. Would recommend them. Took their time and did what they promised to do. They removed their shoes and are very courteous. They took the time to explain and answer all my questions and were not there to just hurry up and get out of there. Did it properly and promptly. Thank you for a fine job.”

“Would recommend them”
John Davidson, Beaconsfield, QC

indoor air quality evaluation services