Sunday, 7 June 2020

Do you think you are absolutely safe in your building/ home?




It is likely aware that we all spend most of the time indoor in our house or office buildings that do not have windows that open and affects the indoor air quality that can cause Sick building syndrome in modern buildings which is a worldwide health concern.

Sick building syndrome is caused due to internal pollution in the building that has an adverse impact on the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) due to the accumulation of indoor air pollutants like oxides of Nitrogen (NOX), CO, CO2, VOCs and particulates that are emitted from building materials and office accessories.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a combustion byproduct and it is a result of human metabolism, but its concentrations within a building often are used to indicate whether adequate fresh air is being supplied to the room or area. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide that can affect the indoor air quality (IAQ) can cause headaches and fatigue, and higher concentrations can produce nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. Loss of consciousness can result at extremely high concentrations. To minimize the concentrations of carbon dioxide in a room or a building, adequate fresh air should be supplied.

Carbon monoxide produced by partial combustion of fuels in urban areas contributes to both outdoor and indoor pollution while indoor air quality may be affected by CO emitting sources including gas stoves, generators and gasoline powered equipments. Exposure to CO can cause various health disorders affecting cardiovascular system, lungs and blood reducing oxygen supply to the brain.

Indoor air pollution caused by nitrogen oxides can be generated by both outdoor and indoor sources. Indoor sources of nitrogen oxides are heating appliances, tobacco smoking and increased levels of nitrogen oxides can be remarkably noticed in homes with gas cookers, paraffin heaters and portable bottled gas heaters. Exposure to nitrogen oxides may result in acute or chronic bronchitis. NO2 acts mainly as a respiratory irritant affecting the mucosa of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are considered to be one of the major causes of sick building syndrome. The major contributor to the poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is the release of VOCs from many consumer products at our homes.

The emission sources of VOCs identified are cigarette smoking, solvent-related emissions, new and building renovations, floorings, household products, perfumes, paints, adhesives, pesticides, carpets and furniture. Most of the VOCs emitted from aging of building products included naphthalene, benzene, 1,4-dichlorobenzene, isopropylbenzene, ethylbenzene, styrene, chloroform, 1,2-dichloroethane, tetrachloroethene and trichloroethylene. Indoor fungi are also a source for the production of  VOCs. Other sources of emission of VOCs include office equipment and supplies, such as laser printing toners , wood-binders (resin)  that emit VOCs, ozone, formaldehyde, resin, and other particles and most significantly, the indoor VOC concentrations are higher than the outdoor levels. Poor indoor air quality due to VOCs include Various health problems such as eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches and nausea, as well as more serious health effects such as liver, kidney and central nervous system damage. Many VOCs are known to be toxic causing cancers.

Thermal Discomfort is associated with increased symptoms, such as a headache, fatigue, and mucosal irritation noticed as per the ventilation systems, use of increasing numbers of electronic devices in the offices that add up the heat loads in buildings. Clothing habits in different seasons due to modernization and fashion trends may also contribute to the causes of thermal discomfort in a hotter environment.

How can you get rid of this syndrome?

Measures to improve the air quality and prevent sick building syndrome

Keep your building well ventilated by using fans and air exchanges.
Preferably, use cleaning products with low fumes and no fragrances.
Keep doors and windows open for at least part of the day to provide natural ventilation and a greater flow of fresh outdoor air.

Generally VOCs off-gas at elevated levels when both humidity and temperature are high. Maintain the humidity below 45 per cent and the temperature cool. On the other hand, this will also help you save on your energy bill.

If new carpets or products are purchased that contain solvents, adhesives and exposed particleboard, see that they are opened and kept in a garage or a ventilated area for few days before bringing them into your house. Off-gas levels of many compounds decrease dramatically in the first few days after being removed from their packaging.

Keep computers in well-ventilated areas and take hourly breaks from the computer to minimize your exposure.

Despite major changes in the lifestyle due to modernization, one should be aware of health concern and recognize the issues arising from modern living and life style.



Article by Dr.Yashoda Tammineni,
MSc, Ph.D.
HSE, HOD at NIFS

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