For several decades, the occurrence of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) has become increasingly common. SBS shows how the effects of poor indoor air quality manifests itself in both commercial and residential buildings. Typically, most of the “problem” buildings are offices-where many people are contained in a small amount of space for a large part of the day. These conditions are similar to those found in the cabin of passenger planes-and air quality is just as important for people in office buildings as it is for those who are at 40,000 feet.
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is marked by a combination of several ailments (which make it a syndrome) that are associated with indoor environment (especially office buildings). Most all instances of SBS are a result of flaws in the heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems that cause indoor air contaminants to become concentrated. A 1984 World Health Organization report into the syndrome suggested up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be linked to symptoms of SBS because of new, energy efficient (air tight) buildings.
50 possible symptoms are associated with SBS, but several of the most common are:
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Dry cough
- Itchy skin
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Sensitivity to odors
- Increased number or asthma attacks and/or the occurrence of asthma attacks in non-asthmatics
- Personality changes such as uncharacteristic bouts of rage, weeping, paranoia or depression
- Putative cases of bronchitis or pneumonia that are not cured by antibiotics
- Symptoms that resemble those of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Though the condition has often been viewed with skepticism from employers and doctors alike, new research is uncovering the extent of air pollution within commercial buildings. Old furnaces spew out perilous amounts of carbon monoxide while keyboards, mouses and phones are covered in more microbial nightmares than a toilet seat. Molds flourish within the walls, causing problems ranging from respiratory discomfort to organ damage. An Australian Research Team from the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at Queensland University of Technology found that certain printers created as much air dangerous air pollution as a lit cigarette.
The researchers tested 62 different laser printers from well-known labels like Canon, HP Color LaserJet, Ricoh and Toshiba. Of these 62 printers, 17 were considered “high- level emitters”, which meant that the level of particulate pollution they created was on par with a burning cigarette. People who have large batches of papers to be photo copies will often experience headaches. When equipment used to detect the levels of contaminants in the air is placed near these photo copiers, they detect drastic levels of pollution in the air.
What can you do to improve you working environment?
- Use a HEPA quality air filter in offices. The CT500 made by Dynamic Air Quality Solutions is often used to remove smoke and allergens from the air and would be very well suited to for removing toner particulate created by copiers and printers.
- The best way to combat this indoor air quality problem is to sit as far away from printers and copiers as possible.
- Do not keep printers and photocopiers in small, enclosed rooms-instead try to place them where they will have adequate ventilation to disperse pollutants.