In part one we examined the causes of sick building syndrome including:
- Carbon monoxide leaking into the building through fresh air intake vents from attached or underground parking garages or loading docks
- Smokers near an outdoor air intake vent or open doors
- Ozone emitted from printers, fax machines, and copiers
- Chemical cleaning products sprayed on surfaces, walls, and floors
- Outdoor pollution sucked in through revolving doors
- Construction dust, paint fumes, and off gassing from new carpets and furniture after a renovation
- Dust, allergens and other particulates in old carpet
- Odors, chemicals, and other toxins leaking in from nearby restaurants, dry cleaners, coffee roasters, gas stations, dumpsters, outdoor exhaust, and industrial plants.
Steps you can take
If you suspect your building is sick there are several things you can do both on your own and in conjunction with your building’s owner or manager.
- Don’t block air vents or grilles. If the temperature in your office or workspace is too warm or too cold, adjust the temperature rather than covering vents.
- Ask colleagues who smoke to do so outdoors away from vents and open doors
- Take care of indoor plants. Dry, dying plants don’t improve air quality and over-watered plants can develop mold.
- Refrigerate perishable foods and clean the refrigerator frequently to prevent mold and odors.
- Get rid of garbage promptly to prevent odors and biological contamination. Keep garbage cans (for compostables and other food) in well-ventilated areas.
- Keep eating and work areas clean to avoid attracting pests which can aggravate respiratory problems and trigger allergic reactions and asthma.
- Make sure ventilation system is up-to-date and well maintained so it delivers adequate amounts of fresh air and filters out dust and other contaminants. Ventilation is especially important in areas where copiers and printers are located.
- Maintain even temperature and medium humidity. When temperatures are high and the relative humidity is above 60%, people will feel uncomfortable and will be less productive. On the other hand, if room temperature is high in winter and the relative humidity goes below 40%, then workers will start to complain of dry skin, eyes, nose and throat. This drying effect on the throat and nose puts people at risk for more colds and infections. So, it’s about more than comfort, it is about health.
- Take care when doing renovations in occupied buildings. Limit exposures to the by-products of construction such as paint fumes, glues and dust. Choose zero or low VOC paints as well as flooring and furniture that is manufactured without added formaldehyde and other chemicals.