Lourdes Salvador's Column
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Study Shows Damp Homes Increases Risk of Illness
by Lourdes Salvador
A recent survey of healthy people in Sweden identified an increased risk for building related illness when dampness or mold is present in the home.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "the term "sick building syndrome" (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term "building related illness" (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants."
Symptoms of building related illness include fatigue, mental confusion, sluggishness, sore throat, headache, and other health complaints which present shortly after entering a sick building.
Because symptoms are generally alleviated when away from a sick building and sick building syndrome has been closely examined only in occupational settings, building related illness is often initially dismissed as a person wishing to avoid going to school or work.
A signal that it may be building related illness is a worsening or alleviating of symptoms in certain parts of a building, or upon taking a break outdoors.
The most likely causes of sick buildings include inadequate ventilation; chemical contaminants from indoor sources such as adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, pesticides, and cleaning agents; chemical contaminants from outdoor sources; and biological contaminants.
The easiest way to prevent a sick building is to eliminate sources of pollution, increasing ventilation, use air cleaning devices, and educate/communicate with building inhabitants. .
The researchers also found that people who develop sick building syndrome from an occupational building are more likely to remain ill if they also live in a damp dwelling.
Dampness leads to mold and mold may lead to illness. Sahlberg and colleagues say, "Reducing dampness in buildings is an important factor for reducing symptoms in the general population."
Sahlberg B, Wieslander G, Norbäck D. Sick building syndrome in relation to domestic exposure in Sweden--a cohort study from 1991 to 2001. Scand J Public Health. 2010 May;38(3):232-8. Epub 2009 Oct 22.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Initials. (2010, April 26). Indoor air facts no. 4 (revised) sick building syndrome. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/iedweb00/pubs/sbs.html
For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.
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