What Causes Sick Building Syndrome?

September 15, 2016

After understanding the basis of sick building syndrome, recognizing the root causes for the syndrome is the next step for prevention or treatment. By properly identifying the root causes, suitable countermeasures can be constructed.  Causes for sick building syndrome can be classified into three categories:

  • Poor performing HVAC systems sick_building_syndrome.jpg
    • Heating
      • Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, or other organic compounds can be emitted  from heating products such as kerosene, gas space heaters, and stoves
    • Ventilation Systems
      • Insufficient outside air, poor filtration of internal air, and  contaminated duct work
      • ASHRAE recommends a minimum of 15 ft3/min (CFM) of outdoor air per person, and 20 CFM per person in office spaces
      • If an intake air vent is poorly located, supply air could come from restrooms or kitchen exhausts, plumbing vented air, dumpster odors and from nearby parking garages or traffic
      • Outdoor air can be a source of indoor air pollution, for example pollutants from motor vehicle exhaust can enter through air intake vents, windows, and openings
  • Indoor Chemical Contaminants
    • Photo copiers and printers can emit ozone during usage
    • Volatile organic compound, and fibers including formaldehyde can be emitted into the air from carpeting, upholstery, adhesives, copy machines, pesticides and cleaning agents
  • Biological Contaminants
    • Examples of biological contaminants include mold, bacteria, pollen and viruses
      • They breed in stagnant water that has accumulated in ducts, humidifiers, drain pans or where water has collected on ceiling tiles and insulation
    • Mold
      • This is an uncommon problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet spot (such as a duct), and begin growing
      • Mold can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks, as well as irritate eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, regardless of whether individuals are allergic or not

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Topics: Building Automation, HVAC/R