Clean Buildings and Healthy Environments 

Is Your Building Suffering from Sick Building Syndrome or Building Related Illness?

Sick Building Syndrome

A major problem facing Facility and Property Managers this time of year is "Sick Building Syndrome." This phenomenon is also sometimes known as "Tight Building Syndrome.” This is a real issue and a growing trend.

Simply, "Sick Building Syndrome" is when a building – or any indoor environment – is the cause of the respective occupants’ recurring health issues due to pathogens (e.g., viruses, bacteria or fungi) that are repeatedly passed around and remain in the building. These ailments occur because of spending long periods of time in well-sealed, poorly ventilated buildings that contain indoor air toxins. The EPA estimates that "1 in 4 new or renovated indoor buildings may be classified as 'sick buildings'." In 1984, the World Health Organization reported that the materials used in up to 30% of newly built buildings might cause acute illness. That means that as of 1984, almost a third of all buildings were contaminated with harmful products!

"Sick Building Syndrome" is especially prevalent in newer, energy-efficient buildings in which windows are sealed shut and fresh air is scarce.

Symptoms can include:

  • Eye, throat, or skin irritation
  • Headache, dizziness, or nausea
  • Irritated, blocked, or runny nose
    Poor concentration or fatigue
  • Respiratory illnesses including shortness of breath and coughing
  • Eczema
  • Colleagues experiencing similar issues
  • Unexplained health problems usually begin to fade away after leaving the "sick" building

One of the most problematic issues related to “Sick Building Syndrome” is that it often goes misdiagnosed and untreated.

Unfortunately most Facility and Property Managers have no protocol in place to address these issues.

Common Causes of “Sick Building Syndrome”:

  • Infrequent or inadequate cleaning, both daily and periodic (such as carpet cleaning)
  • Toxic cleaning chemicals
  • Synthetic insulation
  • Poor circulation and lack of fresh air
  • Paint fumes
  • New synthetic carpet outgassing New Fabric outgassing
  • Natural gas and carbon dioxide
  • Construction materials
  • Lead or toxic paint
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Formaldehyde fumes
  • Oil and gas fumes

Where does your building stand? If you think your buildings may be causing “Sick Building Syndrome,” you need to improve the air quality within. Once the building stops giving off toxins your symptoms should go away. Sometimes this is easier said than done, and depending on the scale of the problem, might require a massive renovation and replacement of toxic building materials with non-toxic replacements.

A great first step to de-toxic, the sick building is to bring in plants. There are plants that remove toxins, different plants remove different toxins. Please see the information below.

This is a good practice for buildings without a SBS problem yet, as a prevention action.

In some situations, changing air filters, increasing the fresh air mixes for HVAC systems, or an air purification system can help the problems. Nature has very powerful tools to clean the air. The natural negative ionization and UV waves from sunlight work wonders, and opening the blinds to let in some rays is an easy way to reap those benefits. Additionally, you can open the windows and doors and let the ozone and negative ions help remove toxins from the air.

Building Related Illness

Another problem that is facing Facilities and Property Managers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), In contrast to SBS, Building Related Illness, is where that clearly airborne building contaminants are causing your symptoms of a specific illness, confirmed by diagnosis.

Some of the causes for an illness related to a building include:

Airborne infections

meningitis chicken pox
common cold
whooping cough
hantavirus pulmonary syndrome

In air duct UV Lighting is an excellent solution for airborne infections 

Toxic exposure
gasoline asbestos
carbon monoxide

Biological contaminants

allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
hypersensitivity pneumonitis

Building related illnesses are less common and may only affect a few, but the health effects are frequently more serious.

This building caused situation may require a prolonged symptom recovery period after you leave.

Exposure to radon and asbestos from within a building can cause you a serious health condition years later. Yet, they’re not classified as causes of sick buildings syndrome or a building related illness.

More detail on this subject is available on the Environmental Protection Agency website.

Additional Actions You Can Take

Quite often, the natural air filters in the building are missed. The largest air filter in a building is the carpeting. Just like your air conditioning filter that filters out airborne soils that pass through it, your carpet does the same thing. And during the fall and winter months when your windows are rarely opened, it becomes a more critical issue.

Carpeting absorbs tracked-in soil like dirt, asphalt, pollens, insecticides, bacterial matter, and fungus. This can be clearly seen with “filtration soiling,” which is the black lines that appear on light colored carpet around the base boards, under the doors, and around cool air returns.

The filtering process that your carpet provides keeps those soils from becoming airborne, essentially trapping them in the carpet. They are then removed with regular vacuuming and regular carpet extraction. As with any other filter, if you do not clean your carpet on a regular basis, the filter becomes full. The cleaning industry at large has not done a good job of educating the public about these kinds of issues; therefore many consumers are uninformed of the impact.

Other natural air filtering systems that people often overlook are upholstered furniture, cloth covered cubical walls, and drapes. These should be cleaned regularly as well, as it is dirt you may not be able to see, but it is down below the surface and needs to be removed.

A solution for carpet, upholstery and cubical wall is King Cobra 1200 PRO.

A powerful 1200 psi pump pressure washes tile and grout and a strong 7.2" 3-stage vacuum immediately vacuums up the loosened soil and excess water, leaving floors clean and dry and ready to use with minimal downtime.

As a carpet extractor, a key new feature of this unique machine is the adjustable 150-500 psi pump for carpet and upholstery cleaning. With 500 psi and instant 212°F water at the wand tip, this portable carpet extractor delivers superior cleaning power, in a compact, easy-to-use portable extractor.

With performance that rivals a truck mount without losing building security, unmatched quality, and features that can only be found in U.S. Products Cleaning equipment, the King Cobra 1200 PRO will boost cleaning efficiency, performance and versatility.

The key isn't to eliminate all cleaning chemicals, just the chemicals that emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). This is where a green cleaning program can be beneficial. A green cleaning program utilizes carpet cleaning and hard surface cleaning products that won't compromise the indoor air quality of a building. Green cleaning chemicals won't negatively affect the health of the user (even in a confined area), or the building occupant. A green cleaning program that utilizes green cleaning products contains NO VOCs.

To summarize: Tighter buildings = reduced fresh air + increased VOCs = more concentration of indoor air pollution = Sick Building Syndrome.

Your first step is to contact Professional Maintenance of Michigan, Inc. to perform a free Sick Building Cleaning audit. The inspection process will determine the type of cleaning method that is most suitable for your building. From the results, together we can determine the best techniques to return your building to peak condition.

A solution to the VOC problem is a solution like Clean by Peroxy.

Clean by Peroxy is a Green Seal™ Certified all-purpose cleaner that is environmentally responsible. With the cleaning power of peroxide, Clean by Peroxy is a unique product that will effectively clean windows, mirrors, floors, walls, carpets, restrooms, kitchens, tile and grout without streaking. Clean by Peroxy minimizes the number of products, simplifying training and inventory management.