Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

             Imagine getting up each day feeling absolutely terrible. You dread facing another day.  You're unable to think clearly or plan your day. You have an overwhelming guilt that you're a terrible burden on those around you. A feeling of helplessness washes over you because you're unable to find your way out of this sickness.  You've been tested for all types of illnesses that nobody would ever want to have but you believe that even a dreaded diagnosis would be better than not knowing what has robbed you of a normal life. This is the life of an environmentally ill person..

                 We have accepted and understand that our diet affects our health. Billions of dollars are spent on ads to influence what we eat. We often don’t realize and understand that what we breathe, absorb through our skin or drink from a faucet or bottle can have a devastating effect on health. We don’t consider that for some people, our homes, schools, workplaces, drinking water or parks are toxic.   

                  Environmental illness is a terrible burden on those that suffer from it and their loved ones.  As a building scientist, I hear about this day after day. Like most professionals dealing with environmental illness, my involvement is because I've seen it first-hand.  I watched my father slowly suffocate to death because of his asbestos exposure. He sprayed the stuff to make buildings fire safe for others, not to have his lungs fill with cancer. Surprise!    

What is Environmental Illness?

              There are common symptoms with environmental diseases. There's often brain fog, numbness or pain, bowel issues, fibromyalgia, skin problems, missing hair, skin rashes, lethargy and confusion   Many have taken an endless list of prescription drugs designed to alleviate symptoms. Those prescriptions had side effects that create new symptoms. When those symptoms were treated with new treatments, more of the above symptoms occurred.   There's also the financial burdens and the emotional roller coaster of raised and then dashed hopes. Stress makes the symptoms even worse.  

             People with environmental illness have more than symptoms in common. Most have already visited many physicians. Some have been told that they have an “idiopathic disease” which is medical speak for “you have a set of symptoms that are similar to an illness, but we don’t know why or even if it is really true.” Others have been told that they must be imagining the illness. Almost all have their hopes of wellness dashed time and time again.  

                Often the biggest stress and challenge that the environmentally ill face is their friends or family members don't understand or believe that the illness is real. We know and accept that there are children who can eat a single peanut and go into anaphylactic shock. We understand that there are people that can react badly to the lifesaving drug penicillin. Despite this, some people can't understand how one person in a home could react to environmental problems while the others are still healthy.

Posted by Dan Howard on February 22nd, 2019 9:37 PM

             Turn off the gas lines to your home. There is a main valve outside at the meter. Turning the gas supply off to the home may save you from an explosion.  

              Shut off the electrical power at the main panel. This can avoid shock during the disaster or damage to your electronic equipment and appliances when power is restored to an area.

                Be very careful when reentering a flood or fire damaged home.  These can and will collapse without warning possibly leaving whoever is in the building in the same condition as the Wicked Witch in Oz after the house fell on her.  By the way, we all know you will want back into the home after a disaster, but it is really not a good idea until cleared by a professional.   


                The drinking water system may be contaminated. Disease can be flushed into the drinking water supply. Flood waters can be contaminated by sewage system overflows.  Even a small open cut can be the start of a serious illness or infection when in contact with flood waters.  

                Do not turn on the electricity or gas in a damaged home until the home is checked by a professional.  Damaged appliances can be a risk of fire, injury or explosion.  If appliance and other basic equipment are not properly dried and cleaned before they are tuned on, you may cause permanent damage to them.


Posted by Dan Howard on January 1st, 2016 10:03 PM

                For much of our lives, Emergency or Disaster Planning referred to natural disasters. Those plans would include floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and the like. 

              History has changed. As one example, up until 911, if a plane was hijacked, it meant that the passengers got a flight to see what Cuba looked like, not die in an inferno as a plane was driven into a building. Fights at schools were talked about all day, and two students duked it out with fists in an agreed meeting place just out of sight of the school. Guns and mass killings were not a reality we imagined in our wildest dreams.  

             “Shelter in Place” is the term used for “Stay in your home, do not go outside because it is dangerous”. One reason to Shelter in Place could be terrorists on the loose that are using conventional weapons such and guns and explosives. Blocking of doors and windows with barricades in an interior room is the best plan in that case.

                When the reason to “shelter in place” is chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, there are other considerations to include in the plan. Sarin gas, disease agents and dirty nuclear bombs are examples of this type of attack.   Most of these deadly toxins tend to move at ground level, not at a higher elevation. The best plan is to: 

  • Close and seal window and doors the best you can.
  • Duct tape windows and doors to help seal the air.
  • Stay in an interior area of the home without windows and in the upper level
  • Do not operate heat and cooling systems that can pull outdoor air into the building
  • Close and seal fireplace dampers

Other Resources to Prepare for Disaster are a Click Away

              Smart phone technology has many benefits, and one is “Apps” for just about everything. Google the subject of “Disaster Apps” and a list of quality apps are available. Select the ones most fitted for your area and circumstances.

              Many of us have been touched by at least one and often several disasters. From our family’s experiences, we have had parents evacuated for hurricanes and nieces and nephews in the Columbine School system. When 911 hit, we had several children in office towers in Pittsburgh.    

             The lesson here is that each and every American should prepare for natural and terrorist disasters.
Posted by Dan Howard on January 1st, 2016 10:00 PM

           This is a time where we gather and celebrate with our loved ones, and when that is not possible, at the very least, we are thinking about them.  It is ever so much more important to be able to reach our loved ones in times of disaster. Make creating a disaster plan your New Year’s resolution

Prepare for Disaster Ahead of Time

Imagine that something terrible has happened. Connecting with the people you love is likely to be your most important goal. Sadly, we need to add terrorist caused events to the list of natural disasters to consider in our planning.  You need to have a plan for your family. Communication is difficult at best after a disaster. With terrorism and attacks on our technological infrastructure, our technology may be wiped out and leave us unable to use a cell phone to connect with each other. 

                One part of the plan is to have a local place to meet. That plan should also have a place out of the area for family members to call and "report in" so that you know that “all are safe” when everyone can’t get to the meeting place.       


                Then there are the basic necessities of food, water and light.  Finding clean and healthy supplies of these items can be a problem in times of disasters.  Keep a bin of food and water stored in your home with a couple of flashlights and batteries.  Throw an emergency radio into the bin. We have one that operates off of a hand crank avoiding dead battery problems. Make sure you include a couple of LED lights that shine a very long time with little battery drainage. 

A container of gasoline stored in a shed outside of the home may be a good idea. This is important if you need to travel away from the area, and there isn’t any power to get gas at a gas station.

                Another necessity is keeping some cash on hand just in case the ATM machines and credit card processing are disabled. 


Have a portable fire safe for important documents that you may need. You should always have these items in that safe so that they are protected from a fire, and portable to take with you in other disasters. Swapping an extra copy of these papers with a trusted relative in another location is a great backup plan.   

  The documents that should be protected include:
  • Loan Documents
  • Tax Documents
  • Vital Records
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Insurance Policies
  • Financial Account Information
  • Vehicle Loan Docs
  • Credit Card Info
  • User Names and Passwords
  • Social Network Information
  • Medical records
    Passport & license information

                www.Ready.gov has a great downloadable resource for collecting and keeping important disaster information. It will guide you through collecting the most important information, and be a resource to copy and give everyone in your family. The website URL for their “Wallet Planning Card” is http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/108887


Posted by Dan Howard on January 1st, 2016 9:57 PM



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