DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd.
Indoor Air Quality and Environmental Experts


Sick man with cold virus at workFor those of us who work in office buildings every day, it is not uncommon to feel a bit uneasy about our workspaces. Sometimes, our cubicles can make us feel confined and bring out the claustrophobic in all of us. Other times, it’s the dreariness and monotony of the job itself that causes us to feel uncomfortable. And in other cases, it’s the poor air quality of the offices we work in that cause us to feel sick. Literally. It’s known as sick building syndrome.

What is sick building syndrome? According to Chris Woolston on HealthDay.com, if your office is making you sick, you could have this affliction. He admits that while doctors can’t usually detect specific diseases related to sick building syndrome, he describes it as “a constellation of symptoms that usually includes fatigue, headache, dry, itchy skin, and irritation of mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, and throat.”

What causes sick building syndrome? There are a range of possibilities that could be leading to the poor indoor air quality of your office. Woolston notes that “employees in high-rises, particularly those over parking garages or loading docks, may breathe in carbon monoxide carried into the building through the fresh-air-intake vents.” He also points out that smokers who may be taking their smoke breaks near the building’s ventilation system can create issues.

In addition, “exterminators spray pesticides that may linger for days in the carpet,” continues Woolston, “Cleaning products sprayed on walls and floors at night add to the mix, as do copy machines, which emit ozone and are frequently unvented. Revolving doors suck in car exhaust and cigarette fumes from people smoking outside; building renovations throw in construction dust, paint fumes, and ‘off-gassing’ fumes from new carpets.”

Is there any end to the causes of sick building syndrome? Seemingly not. Woolston reminds us that most office workers can’t even crack open windows because their offices are located in sealed buildings. This very circumstance means that even if the indoor air of your office isn’t necessarily polluted, it still may not have the opportunity to circulate with the fresh air from outside. It makes for a very tough-to-breathe-in environment.

What can be done to minimize or avoid sick building syndrome? Woolston highly recommends a conversation with a member of human resources if you feel that the quality of your office breathing air is being compromised. Especially if you notice that either yourself or your co-workers are noticeably ill, it’s important to take measures to locate the potential office-related source of the problem.

“Don’t be afraid to speak up,” he insists, “Finding the root of the problem is to your employer’s benefit, too. Building-related asthma, for example, can cause permanent damage to your health — and lost productivity and increased health costs for your employer.” According to Woolston, The Environmental Protection Agency offers up a number of tips that can help to keep the air in your workplace as fresh as possible.

They include, but are not limited to keeping air vents free from blockage; smoking well away from fresh air intake ducts; taking care of office plants; getting rid of garbage quickly; storing food properly and keeping eating areas clean to avoid attracting pests. “Cockroaches have been linked to respiratory problems,” informs Woolston, “according to the EPA, certain proteins in cockroach droppings and saliva can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma symptoms.”

At DF Technical & Consulting Services, we provide Air Quality Services to help ensure the safety of the breathing air in your office. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email info@dftechnical.ca.

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