Sick Building Syndrome

Courtesy of the Injury Lawyer Network


All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, toxins that cause adverse reactions in humans. The types and severity of symptoms depend, in part, on the types of mold present, the extent of an individual's exposure, the ages of the individuals, and their existing sensitivities or allergies.

Molds typically grow in buildings affected by water damage and have been found in homes, hospitals, schools, and office buildings. It is estimated that about 50 to l00 common indoor mold types have the potential for creating health problems.

Since mold requires water to grow, buildings with moisture problems are highly susceptible to myotoxin problems. Moisture problems can have many causes, including uncontrolled humidity. Some moisture problems in buildings have been linked to changes in building construction practices during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Some of these changes have resulted in buildings that are tightly sealed, but may lack adequate ventilation, potentially leading to moisture buildup.

Building materials, such as drywall, may not allow moisture to escape easily. Moisture problems may include roof leaks, landscaping or gutters that direct water into or under the building, and unvented combustion appliances. Delayed maintenance or insufficient maintenance is also associated with moisture problems in schools and large buildings. Moisture problems in portable classrooms and other temporary structures have frequently been associated with mold problems.

Exposure to sick building syndrome can cause many health problems including:


Molds can trigger asthma attacks in persons who are allergic (sensitized) to molds. The irritants produced by molds may also worsen asthma in non-allergic (non-sensitized) people.

Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis may develop following either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) exposure to molds. The disease resembles bacterial pneumonia.

Irritant Effects

Mold exposure can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, and sometimes can create a burning sensation in these areas.

Opportunistic Infections

People with weakened immune systems (i.e., immune-compromised or immune-suppressed individuals) may be more vulnerable to infections by molds (as well as more vulnerable than healthy persons to mold toxins). Aspergillus fumigatus, for example, has been known to infect the lungs of immune-compromised individuals. These individuals inhale the mold spores, which then start growing in their lungs. Trichoderma has also been known to infect immune-compromised children.

Healthy individuals are usually not vulnerable to opportunistic infections from airborne mold exposure. However, molds can cause common skin diseases, such as athlete's foot, as well as other infections such as yeast infections.

Comprehensive list of Sick Building Syndrome symptoms:

Burning and watering eyes and nose
Shortness of breath upon mild exertion (e.g. walking)
Hoarseness, cough, sore throat
Debilitating fibromyalgia (muscle cramps and joint pain)
Chronic fatigue
Dry, itchy skin
Exhaustion after normal activity
Itchy granulomous pimples Inability to concentrate
Burning in trachea
Serious edema (swelling of legs, trunk, ankles)
Heart Palpitations Sensitivity to odors
Nosebleeds Tremors
Pregnancy Problems

Solving Sick Building Syndrome:

Increasing the ventilation rates and air distribution is often a cost-effective means of reducing indoor pollutant levels. At a minimum, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems should be designed to meet ventilation standards in local building codes. Make sure that the system is operated and maintained to ensure that the design ventilation rates are attained. If possible, the HVAC system should be operated to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 62-1989. If there are strong pollutant sources, air may need to be vented directly to the outside. This method is especially recommended to remove pollutants that accumulate in specific areas such as restrooms, copy rooms, and printing facilities.

Removal or modification of the pollutant source is the most effective approach to solving a known source of an indoor air quality problem when this solution is practicable. Ways to do this include routine maintenance of HVAC systems; replacing water-stained ceiling tiles and carpets; banning smoking or providing a separately ventilated room; venting contaminant source emissions to the outdoors; using and storing paints, solvents, pesticides, and adhesives in closed containers in well-ventilated areas; using those pollutant sources in periods of low or no occupancy; and allowing time for building materials in new or remodeled areas to off-gas pollutants before occupancy.

Step by step remedies for Sick Building Syndrome

Fix roof and pipe leaks promptly. Water sources promote growth of mold, bacteria and other biologicals.
Maintain HVAC (cooling and dehumidifying) equipment carefully, and disinfect drip pans often. Change filters regularly and install HEPA and HEPA-like filters to catch respirable particulate.
Remove dust build-up inside HVAC ductwork.
Insulate to prevent condensation.
Increase ventilation/fresh air into building. Filter the air to trap dust and other airborne particulate.
Reduce humidity and keep indoor surfaces dry. Run air conditioning continually in humid climates.
It's preferable to use a high-retention vacuum cleaner that retains virtually 100 percent of all particles larger than 0.1 micron, because respirable dust may be redistributed if a dirty or faulty bag is used.
Use of a low-moisture, dry extraction systems is preferable. However, when cleaning carpet with high-moisture systems, dry the cleaned areas quickly with fans or dehumidifiers. Keep air conditioning and ventilation systems running during the drying period.
Control dust by switching to treated dusting cloths.
Switch to lower VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints, adhesives and cleaning products.

Produced by the Injury Lawyer Network

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