Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

Is a Building Where You Live, Work, or Study Making You Sick

May 30th, 2016 9:56 PM by Dan Howard

         Even if you have not personally experienced Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) your probably know at least one person suffering with an illness that appears to the result of indoor environmental exposures. Some people use the term “MCS” standing for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity instead of SBS.  No matter what you call it, the effects of environmental exposures can range from inconvenient to devastating for victims and their loved ones.


         Solving the riddle of what the cause or the remedy for Sick Building Syndrome can become a lifetime struggle. If you ask what is the relationship between our bodies and the environment, the answer is the same as many relationships in life:  Its complicated! Too often we do not get to the bottom of “complicated”.

It is Tough to Figure Out What Makes Us Ill

         The first barrier to solving the healthy environment problem is that most environmental reactions happen in time delay. Our brain wiring is much better looking at things as cause-effect when they are occurring together. If we touch a burner on the stove, we feel pain. If we hit our thumb with hammer, we immediately feel the consequences of that action. We learn in real time that for those actions there is a predictable , consistent reaction. We also figure out to not do those things again.

         Environmental exposures usually take time. We walk into a contamination, and may not feel ill for the first hours, days or weeks.  Often we do not become ill from an exposure for years until our immunity is affected by another illness or aging. 

        Our bodies work hard to keep us from having health problems from short term or low level exposures to toxins. As an example, most municipal water authorities have traces of arsenic in the water we drink. Our bodies can usually process the small amount of arsenic and we get on with life with little disruption. Our liver and kidneys can push small amounts of the arsenic out of our bodies and lives. If we open a jar of arsenic and consume a large amount of arsenic at one time, we can become very ill if not dead.

        “Time loading” is how environmental illness often occurs. What that means is that if we have a little arsenic each day, and we start accumulating more in our bodies so that the liver and can clean up that chemical mess, we will become ill. By the way, this explains why a person who spends more time in a sick building can become sick and others who spend less time there are not affected  



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