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5 Tips for Avoiding Sick Building Syndrome

By Bruce Leghorn

If you think work is making you sick, you might be right. We’re not talking about being sick of work, but rather sick from work. First recognized in the 1980s, sick building syndrome usually affects everyone in the office. You and your colleagues may find yourselves suffering from mysterious headaches, respiratory irritations, fatigue, dizziness, or nausea. The symptoms are alleviated (or disappear altogether) when you’re away from the building. While there’s no known cure, we can offer you five tips for avoiding sick building syndrome.

1. Mount a Green Defense

One of the easiest, most aesthetically pleasing ways to combat sick building syndrome is by decking out your office in toxin-absorbing plants. Sansevieria or Snake plants are renowned for their ability to suck up the toxins in a room. However, many plants also purify the air, among them English ivy and jade plants. Placing these plants in the office will offer you more than just pleasing aesthetics.

2. Eliminate Moisture and Its Source

Damp carpets, insulation, and ceiling tiles can result in mildew and mold blooms that can make you sick over time. Since the best defense is a good offense, don’t let any suspected dampness in a building go untreated. Carpets that have been damp for any period should be professionally steam cleaned or replaced, and the source of moisture must be treated as quickly as possible. Same goes for any staining on ceiling tiles. Where there are stains, there is water. Never let any sign of moisture inside a building go untreated.

3. Maintain the HVAC Regularly

Routine HVAC maintenance can save you and all the building’s occupants a lot of headaches–literally. Changing filters and monitoring the system to make sure it’s operating efficiently is one of the best ways to ensure the health of the air in a building. However, increasing the airflow through dirty ducts can hurt your indoor air quality. It’s essential to clean the ducts regularly to clear out dust, mold, or vermin.

4. Clean and Filter the Air

Install air filters in areas that suffer from poor air quality due to proximity to printers and copiers or outdoor smoking areas. Using air filters will remove toxic ozone and particulate matter from the air. Air filters are best for small areas that are relatively enclosed. For larger areas, moving the air will be more effective than attempting to filter it.

5. Increase Ventilation

Most commercial buildings don’t have operable windows, but if yours does, you should make the most of the days when the weather is favorable. Crack the windows open and bring in fresh air whenever possible. Granted, if your office doesn’t open up to a high-traffic or industrial area, you should benefit from the breeze. If you aren’t one of the lucky ones with windows, consider increasing the flow by installing HVLS (high volume, low speed) fans in the office. If all else fails, you can always move your office where the air is clear.

Any building-related illness can be frightening, but using these five tips for avoiding sick building syndrome can help you prevent problems before they start. You don’t have to love your work, but you deserve to enjoy a workplace that doesn’t literally make you sick.

Bruce Leghorn is the one-stop, go-to guide for all of his friends and families’ gardening questions. He loves learning about new technologies and then testing them next to his tried and true traditions. When he isn’t in his garden, he is busy white water rafting and camping off-grid.

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