Lourdes Salvador's Column
...Co-founder of MCS America discusses the latest Multiple Chemical Sensitivity issues.
Lourdes Salvador volunteers as a writer and social advocate for the recognition of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). She was a passionate advocate for the homeless and worked with her local governor to provide services to the homeless through a new approach she created to end homelessness. That passion soon turned to advocacy and activism for people with MCS and the medical professionals who serve them. She co-founded MCS Awareness in 2005 and went on to found MCS America in 2006. She serves as a partner for Environmental Education Week, a partner for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), and a supporter for the American Cancer Society: Campaign for Smokefree Air.
Risk Factors For Sick Building Syndrome
by Lourdes Salvador
Researchers have discovered certain risk factors associated with the development of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).
Nakayama and colleagues at the Department of Social and Environmental Medicine, Osaka University say that exposure to mites, molds, air freshener, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), benzin, thinner, and coating materials are all linked to SBS. If people occupy a carpeted building or one recently renovated, they significantly increase the odds of developing SBS.
All of these exposures are toxic to the human body and produce negative, and sometimes permanently disabling, health effects.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sick building syndrome occurs when building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects linked to time spent in a building. The EPA cites the cause of sick building syndrome as toxic exposure due to inadequate ventilation and both chemical and biological contaminants.
Homes and offices often contain toxic materials such as flame retardants, furniture treatments, cleaning products, pesticides, building materials, and molds.
If at all possible, windows should be opened regularly. However, in our increasing zeal to reduce energy usage, we have unknowingly created hermetically sealed, toxic traps.
It is typical for symptoms to be relieved soon after leaving a sick building. This may cause delayed diagnosis, particularly in offices where symptoms may initially be cast off as burn out or work overload by weary workers. Feeling better over the weekend may be likened to a dislike for work, when in reality toxic exposures from the building are slowly poisoning the oupants.
The EPA cites three indicators of SBS:
- Building occupants complain of symptoms associated with acute discomfort, e.g., headache; eye, nose, or throat irritation; dry cough; dry or itchy skin; dizziness and nausea; difficulty in concentrating; fatigue; and sensitivity to odors.
- The cause of the symptoms is not linked to a known medical condition.
- Most of the complainants report relief soon after leaving the building.
Nakayama and colleagues suggest that improvement of SBS symptoms might be obtained through modification. Lifestyle and building modifications may include:
- Discontinue the use of chemical air fresheners, pesticides, cleaners, and solvents in favor of green and natural alternatives.
- Open windows regularly.
- Increase ventilation rates and use the “open” vent setting on the HVAC.
- Install an air purification system on the central HVAC.
- Place additional portable air purifiers in problem areas.
- Regularly check for and remediate leaks, mold, and mildew.
- Take frequent fresh air breaks.
- Choose low-VOC and no-VOC paints and building materials.
- Evacuate occupants during building renovations.
- Do not return to a building that causes symptoms.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Get lots of rest.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Ensure adequate exercise.
Nakayama K, Morimoto K. Risk factor for lifestyle and way of living for symptoms of sick building syndrome: epidemiological survey in Japan. Nippon Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2009 May;64(3):689-98.
For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.
Copyrighted 2009 Lourdes Salvador & MCS America