Sick Building Syndrome Keeping Your Home Habitat Healthy

 The term Sick Building Syndrome was first used in the late 1970’s after a mysterious outbreak of pneumonia occurred among people attending an  American Legion convention in a well known Philadelphia hotel. Thirty four  deaths were reported and 221 people required medical treatment.  

 Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is not a specific disease but rather an association  of several clinically recognizable features when the symptoms of a significant  number of a building's residents are shared. SBS can be caused by several  underlying factors. Each cause will result in a specific effect, requiring  identification and a treatment plan that eliminates the problem and prevents  future episodes. An entirely new industry has sprung up which attempts to  identify, isolate, and remove the cause when a building is diagnosed with SBS,  and the human inhabitants are adversely affected.  

 The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mounted an  unprecedented investigation into the American Legion convention outbreak. The  focus shifted from an outside cause, such as a human disease carrier, to the  Bellevue-Stratford Hotel itself, when the CDC identified and isolated a  previously unknown strain of bacteria. It was found breeding in the cooling  tower of the hotel’s air conditioning system and spread easily throughout the entire building.  

 The bacteria, subsequently named Legionella after the convention that triggered  its discovery, caused what is now known as Legionnaires Disease. In January  1977, the world became aware that buildings could become 'sick' and spread  disease to humans, sometimes with fatal results. These findings prompted new regulations worldwide for climate control systems.  

 Air-Tight Buildings

 SBS is more about ventilation than a specific style or type of building. For  example, air-tight buildings conserve energy, are easier to heat and cool and  here in Florida an air-tight structure is more resistant to hurricane force  winds; all good points for condo dwellers, but there is a flip-side to be  considered. An air-tight dwelling does not allow a structure to 'breathe,' and  the circulation of stale, sealed-in air can quickly lead to deteriorated indoor  air quality (IAQ), one of the main factors for SBS. The degree of deterioration depends on many things. Cleaning products, dust, cooking odors, pets, humidity, insecticide dust,  pollen, mold spores, tobacco smoke, airborne bacteria and viruses are all  pollutants that range from annoying to deadly. Carpeting, upholstery,  electronic equipment, copy machines and pesticides also emit volatile organic  compounds (VOCs) which enter the ventilation system of a building and  eventually the lungs of its inhabitants. Pollutants from vehicles or  combustible products may enter a dwelling from poorly located air intake vents,  open windows, or even plumbing vents.  

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