Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

Indoor Air Toxins Created by Today's Construction

March 1st, 2018 10:11 PM by Dan Howard

              Two of the most significant impact items on environmental health today are new products and tighter building envelopes. 

               The bad news is that many of the building products and contents are made of oil processed in one way or another. Manufacturing complex chemicals is a complicated process. An improper mix, wrong temperature, impurities in a reagent, too long in a vat and the reactions can result is toxin production. In other cases, the produced materials and chemicals are not stable or break down chemically over time. Substitute materials can be used as solvents or as the products themselves and create indoor air toxins.

                For a great example of what can happen in every day indoor air, review the MSDS for your favorite air freshener. It will be a page long list of organic chemicals that are plugged into an outlet and heated. The heat breaks down those chemicals into more chemicals.  

               We also deal with leftover chemicals from prior occupants of a building. These can range from the accidental spill to left over contamination from drug activity in a home. The source of indoor pollution can be spills, burying of toxic materials or pesticide on farmland that happened decades before the building was constructed. 

              There are countless cleaners and pesticides that people and businesses will store that can spill or off-gas. A change of janitorial service in an adjacent office can introduce toxic chemical cleaners that are used to reduce labor costs that result in toxic fumes. In this scenario, unknowingly the improper mix of incompatible chemicals can create a toxic environment.       

There are also a host of toxins produced from poorly vented or unvented furnaces, hot water tanks or other fossil fueled appliances. 

Another major potential impact on indoor health is EMF (electromagnetic radiation). Cell phones, electronic devices and microwave devices in everything from cooking to communication systems may affect our heath. 

The Bottom Line in Environmental Assessments

               The solution to Sick Building Syndrome is a process. It begins with a history of the building, its occupants and the very ground the building sets on. The former site of an old dump or factory could be a plan of multi-million-dollar homes today. 

               The next step is evaluating the construction materials and methods of the building with consideration of materials that may have been brought into the building envelope.

                Those considerations are considered, and a testing plan developed and implemented to identify and verify the type, location and quantity of a contaminant. The factors that may allow the recurrence of a contamination need identified and avoiding those factors incorporated in any remediation.     

                 In the case of possible communicable biological contagions in the building, those need identified and the exposure risks and methods of transmission evaluated and included in the testing and remediation plan. 

                 All these steps are critical to developing a plan to correct the contamination if possible. In some cases, the best advice for an individual would be to avoid a building, but a medical practitioner needs the information provided n the assessment to make that recommendation.   

                 The final steps in the process are to remediate when possible and test the building when work is complete to assure success of the process.

In summary, investigate, discover, verify by testing, remediate and confirm success of remediation or disinfection work to provide a healthy environment for building occupants.

Posted by Dan Howard on March 1st, 2018 10:11 PM



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