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Sick House Syndrome

Updated on April 16, 2020
Lady Lorelei profile image

Mother of 2 daughters and grandmother of 7, I strive daily to achieve an optimum level of health and happiness. Life is all about balance.

Home Sweet Polluted Home
Home Sweet Polluted Home | Source

It Has Little To Do With How Well You Clean Your Home

Are you or your family suffering from sick house syndrome? Mildew, mold, dust mites, bacteria, second hand smoke, and pet dander are just a few of the pollutants which are frequently found in homes.

There can be serious toxins lurking in some homes and work places. Some of these toxins include formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, asbestos, lead dust, sulfur dioxide, radon gas, as well as other pollutants. These toxic substances could be making you and your family ill.

Polluted Indoor Air Is The Cause Of Sick House Syndrome

In 1984 the World Health Organization officially announced that the polluted indoor air within homes and workplaces was causing the occupants of those buildings to become ill. This illness was officially termed "Sick Building Syndrome" or "Sick House Syndrome" and was officially classified as a very real illness.

It was estimated that up to thirty percent of all newly renovated, or newly built homes and offices, could be classified as sick buildings that could cause illness to the people who breathed the polluted air within them.

It is believed that Radon gas may be the second leading cause of lung cancer edged out only by cigarette smoking. Radon gas is generally found in the homes of basements and is one of many indoor home pollutants.

Carbon monoxide is another common indoor pollutant. Testing the air in your home for carbon monoxide poisoning can warn you when things go wrong. An alarm can warn you if there is leakage between your enclosed garage and your home.


What Is Sick House Syndrome?

Sick house syndrome is basically the same as sick building syndrome and it occurs when the air inside a house reaches pollution levels sufficient enough to cause illness or disease to its occupants. That sniffling nose or upset stomach that you think is an allergy may actually be something considerably more serious. It could be that you are suffering from sick house syndrome. Your home could be making you sick.

Symptoms may include one or any number of these health warning signs: Headache, dizziness, stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, confusion or difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering things, sneezing, coughing, chest or sinus congestion, sore throat, difficulty breathing, sore or irritated eyes, muscle or joint stiffness and pain, fatigue, earaches, skin rash or itch, an inability to tolerate heat or cold, irritability or uncomfortableness, chest pain, or unusual heart palpitations.

It is the invisible things that we don't see that definitely can have harmful effects on your family. Be wise, be well, keep your home safe. Check your home to insure that you do not have high levels of radon gas being breathed in by you and your children. Change your furnace filter regularly to prevent dust and other small particulate from re-circulating within the home.

Children Can be More Vulnerable to Toxins than Adults

Causes of Indoor Air Pollution are Many

Such common products as household cleaners, varnish, paint, glue, and computer inks contribute to poor indoor air quality.

Household furnishings such as carpets, as well as the very construction materials that your home is made from, all release invisible and often times toxic gases into the air that you breathe.

Even storing these common everyday items within the home can add to the indoor pollutions levels within your house and increase the likelihood that your family may suffer from sick house syndrome.

You and your family may be breathing in formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, asbestos, lead dust, radon gas, mildew, mold, dust mites, bacteria, second hand smoke, pet dander, as well as other pollutants. You may not be able to see or smell these contaminants, yet they could be in your home, and making you sick.

If these contaminants do not have sufficient fresh air to dilute them to a relatively harmless state, then they combine with the multitude of other indoor pollutants, and pollute the indoor air of your home.

If your house does not have access to sufficient fresh air exchange then the indoor air within your home becomes increasingly more polluted. From there it is only a matter of time before you and your family begin to suffer the effects of sick house syndrome.

Pet Dander Can Also Contribute to Indoor Air Pollution.

Using an air purifier can help to remove dust and dander.
Using an air purifier can help to remove dust and dander. | Source

The 1973 Oil Embargo and Sick House Syndrome.

One might wonder what the 1973 oil embargo could possible have to do with sick house syndrome but the resulting energy crisis actually set a chain of events into motion which was to drastically increase the amount of people suffering from this syndrome.

With world wide oil shortages looming in the near future, the 1973 oil embargo helped push the price of oil higher. and government agencies into a new line of conservation practices. One of these was a new set of building standards code which was put in place to insure that buildings would be as energy efficient as they could be.

In the early 1900s and throughout the mid 1900s building standards code required 15 cubic feet of fresh air per minute per person for appropriate ventilation within buildings. New energy conservation measures were implemented in the 1970s that reduced the amount of fresh air ventilation within buildings.

The current 15 cubic feet per minute per person was reduced to a mere 5 cubic feet of air per minute per person. Newly constructed and renovated homes, offices, and schools, were to follow the new standards set out to insure that these buildings would be much more airtight.

It was the start of a new syndrome known as sick building syndrome.

The Age of Your Home Could be a Factor.

What Year was Your Home Constructed?

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It was the Stricter Building Code Standards that Brought this Health Issue to Light

It was believed that the new building standard codes would insure that buildings required less heating and cooling costs and so would therefore be more energy efficient.

What no one could foresee then was that these new building code standards rather than being of benefit during the oil crisis would instead served to trap bacteria and other pollutants within these buildings.

The trapped contaminants then had the opportunity to multiply and rise to dangerous levels. It was this contaminated indoor air which caused the people within these buildings to become ill.

The people who lived and worked within these newly renovated or newly built buildings began to complain of a number of health ailments. The air within these buildings was causing them to suffer from a strange new illness.

For most of the individuals who were initially exposed to sick building syndrome, their symptoms would disappear once they left the affected building, but for many their symptoms would last for a lengthy time after their initial exposure.

Houseplants Can be Helpful in Reducing Indoor Air Pollution

Venus Flytrap and Healing Aloe Plant.
Venus Flytrap and Healing Aloe Plant.

There are Things You Can Do to Help

  • Change your furnace filter regularly.
  • Use dust mite covers on your pillows and mattresses.
  • Install a carbon monoxide monitor.
  • Use an air purifier to help remove indoor particulate that may cause an allergy to flare. There are many styles and sizes of air purifiers available and most will fit right in with your rooms needs. Most do a very good job of helping to remove allergens and dust from the home so choosing one that suits your décor works ideally.
  • Test your home for Radon gas.
  • Instill a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
  • Use green household cleaning products such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon, or a green tea solution.
  • Keep a window in your home open at least one inch summer, winter, spring, and fall.
  • Check for, and remove, mold or mildew from within your home.
  • Update your furnace, air conditioner, ventilation system and other household appliances.
  • Store paint, glues, varnishes, garden materials, and other household cleaning or construction materials in the garage or a storage shed rather than within your living space.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Lorelei Cohen


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