Do people in your office seem to get sick at an alarming rate? Do your nose and eyes get itchy at the cubicle or in the conference room? You are not alone. A World Health Organization study showed that the occupants of up to 30% of new and recently remodeled buildings complain about air quality. The EPA defines sick building syndrome, or SBS, as a propensity for discomfort, mucus membrane irritation, chills, fevers, and even illness among the people who work in the same building.
EPA Investigates Sick Building Syndrome
When the EPA investigated the matter, they found that many managers ignore the optimal maintenance and cleaning procedures for their particular building’s design. Poorly maintained surfaces like carpets, upholstery, and furniture can emit volatile organic compounds that cause discomfort or even illness. Improper cleaning can fail to remove these compounds, and, in some cases, leave behind traces of cleaning agents that can have harmful effects on the human body.
Ventilation and Regular Cleaning Crucial to Building Occupant Health
The data shows that leaving the building for a time causes SBS’s symptoms to dissipate, but this is not a realistic option for everyday Americans. What the EPA recommends is to increase the ventilation in the building, and the frequency—and quality—of cleanings. Many particles and microorganisms that cause SBS thrive in humid, hard-to-reach areas like under sinks or in air ducts. Properly cleaning these areas is crucial to the safety of the building’s occupants.
While it may seem like a good idea to some managers to save on their energy and office cleaning bills, the evidence suggests this can backfire. Investing in building maintenance, hiring a commercial cleaning service, and increasing ventilation are key to preventing SBS, which can take a heavy toll on employee productivity. By making employees work in areas without adequate airflow in which microorganisms are allowed to reproduce, companies are risking big on small savings.