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Sick Building Syndrome
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Sick Building Syndrome

April 18, 2011


The office environment has changed radically during the past decades and modern technology has modified most functions. The very structure of buildings has been transformed, new building materials are being used and air-conditioning systems are widely dispersed. The sick building syndrome is a reaction to these changes — it is a cluster of complex irritating symptoms that occur quite often among the occupants of a building occupants. The symptoms include irritation of the eyes, blocked nose and throat, complaints in the upper airways, headache, dizziness, sensory discomfort from odors, dry skin, fatigue, lethargy, wheezing, sinus congestion, skin rash, irritation and nausea.

The term Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is used to describe cases in which building occupants experience adverse health effects that are apparently linked to the time they spend in the building. However, no specific illnesses or cause can be identified.

Symptoms are usually work related, that is, they begin a short time after a person enters a building and disappears within a few hours after he leaves it. So, the next time you feel "uncomfortable" in your air-conditioned office, look for these symptoms. Surveys that have established the syndrome have frequently been performed in Europe and the United States. A recent study in Italy, too, highlights the problem, pinpointing the adverse effects of artificial illumination, a low or high relative humidity, microbial growth in the ventilation system, airborne chemical pollution, micro organisms present in the duct and the use of fibre glass in buildings. The problem, obviously, exists in India, but it has not yet registered on the public consciousness. There is a clear case, nonetheless, for an extensive study to establish the prevalence of the syndrome.

The US National institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) identifies “ inadequate “ventilation" as the most common factor in building that are considered health hazards. Though attention has been focused on many possibilities as causes of this syndrome–for example, cigarette smoke, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, lack of negative ions and inadequate ventilation — infections head the list, particularly upper respiratory tract infections transmitted from person to person.

Overcrowding of indoor spaces and poorly maintained ventilation systems clearly enhance the risk. Infections caused by micro organisms that multiply within the air-conditioning ducts or blocked fillers may be serious enough lo lead to health. On the oilier hand, irritation and allergic diseases, for example, asthma and rhinitis, have been attributed mainly to inadequate ventilation and inappropriate indoor use of chemicals. It has been established that the incidence of asthma, rhinitis and other diseases caused by allergens is increasing in air-conditioned buildings.

The Solution to Pollution is Dilution

Environment researchers have found that increasing ventilation helps in diluting the pollutants. In fact, concentration of pollution is inversely proportional to ventilation rate; doubling the ventilation, halves the concentration. Thus, increasing ventilation is the most effective method for improving IAQ.

New age Energy Recovery Equipment are the answer to the ever increasing demands for stringent indoor air quality, additional fresh air ventilation, concerns about humidity and microbial contamination and the need to find non toxic replacements for CFCs. 

DRI's Energy Recovery Products & Systems help to optimize energy performance of Air Conditioning Systems resulting in considerable reduction in installed tonnage, reduction in utility bills for entire life cycle,  enhanced IAQ, high productivity and reduced health risks.

DRI is a fast growing HVAC&R company with a global footprint providing a complete line of desiccant based products and systems for Energy Recovery, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Fresh Air Treatment, Evaporative Cooling, Humidification, RH Control and Green Buildings.

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