“Sick building syndrome” – symptoms, causes, and prevention

Experts of World Health Organization (WHO) have been conducting research for many years and finally have made depressing conclusions.  They state that faulty ventilation system within buildings increases the risk of transmission of viral diseases by 75%. Because majority of people spend up to 90% of their time indoors, the air in offices and homes may directly affect their wellbeing. Considering COVID-19 pandemic and its high spread, it is extremely dangerous to stay in rooms with faulty ventilation. Climate control company, ARTS, will help you to restore microclimate and make the air in your buildings safe.

Causes of “sick” buildings   

Scientists first accepted that the air inside buildings directly affects human health and wellbeing in the late 1970s. It was preceded by the fact that in 1973 there was oil embargo and measures were taken to reduce amount of air for ventilation of premises. After that, more people immediately started to complain about their poor health while being in certain premises. In the report of 1984 and related studies, experts of WHO noted that about 30% of new and restored buildings around the world may have a direct connection with poor health due to low quality of indoor air. Two years later, official term “Sick Building Syndrome” was introduced.

Experts identify several types of pollutants that cause deterioration of indoor microclimate and cause emergence of “Sick Building Syndrome” over a period time. These include the following chemical pollutants: dust coming from the street, car exhaust fumes, production emissions. Sources of contamination may also be located in the premises themselves. They may be produced by building materials used for decoration of premises, carpeting, upholstery of furniture, combustion products of gas stoves, emissions of electrical devices, household chemicals. Air quality also worsens due to biological pollutants: pollen of plants, particles of wool and skin of pets, bacterial cells, aerosol particles of viruses, fungal spores, mold, dust mites.

Ventilation can be a significant pollutant of indoor air. Ventilation process is actually designed for replacing of used indoor air with the fresh one that is supplied from outside. Good care is often not taken of ventilation system. This way air exchange is disturbed by breakdowns or blockages of ventilation ducts. Up to 40% of pollutants and bacteria can enter premises through faulty ventilation. Dirty ventilation increases the risk of transmission of viral diseases by 75% and under conditions of the pandemic, COVID-19 may spread among office workers and industrial premises.

Properly working ventilation system may help to solve a number of problems. In most cases it may completely “heal” the building and create favorable microclimate in the premises.

How “sickness” of buildings is dangerous for people 

A lot of dust and high concentration of pollutants accumulate in the rooms with bad microclimate and low quality ventilation.  It also results in the spread of harmful microorganisms, bacteria, mold and fungus. Long term stay in rooms with “Sick Building Syndrome” may worsen the state of health that manifests in various symptoms.

People that stay in rooms with unhealthy microclimate may experience/have psychoemotional discomfort, rapid fatigue, decreased concentration, headaches, dizziness, throat and nose irritation, runny nose, sneezing, difficulty breathing. The condition may even get worse if a person suffers from any allergies, respiratory diseases or asthma.

It is easy to identify whether you have “Sick Building Syndrome” or not.  It is enough to track when and where symptoms express. As a rule, symptoms express and worsen while being in unhealthy room for a long time. On the contrary, they would weaken and disappear when you have access to fresh air or change your location.

Types of contamination

Contamination within the ventilation system may form for a number of reasons. Method of cleaning highly depends on the nature of its origin. Common types of contamination are the following:

– Dust and dirt coming from the street and premises that sets down on air duct or filter;

– Mold and fungus reproduce when rapid temperature changes occur due to circulation of humid air in the duct or moisture condensation;

– Rust may form on the walls of the duct due to high humidity of the circulating air. Later it may result in formation of cracks in the air duct and/or failure of equipment;

– Fat accumulation is the common case for homes and restaurants. It results in blockage of air ducts, check valves and decreases efficiency of ventilation;

– Accumulation of chemicals and reagents in ventilation system of laboratories, research rooms, chemistry classrooms at schools;

– Increased number of dangerous bacteria and viruses caused by rare cleaning and disinfection of the system in medical institutions;

– Contamination after flooding or fire is a rare one that occurs suddenly and irregularly but requires urgent cleaning.

When ventilation system needs cleaning 

Norms of air exchange required for maintaining healthy indoor climate are outlined in construction and sanitary rules. Diagnostics and cleaning of operation of ventilation system shall be at least once a year in accordance with the norms. The same frequency of cleaning and disinfection of ventilation is specified in the Order No. 758 of the Minister of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan as of December 9, 2015.

Established norms and rules, at the same time, also cover conditions for servicing of ventilation equipment with consideration of operating instructions for each individual device. Frequency of cleaning of ventilation system depends on location and intensity of its operation. For instance, supply and exhaust ventilation systems of industrial and technological workshops, educational institutions and medical organizations shall be in strict compliance with maintenance regulations that define their cleaning every six months, every four months. If any intensive works and high operating loads, they need to be cleaned once a month.

Why it is important to entrust cleaning of ventilation to professionals only

Only professional companies can properly identify operational quality of ventilation system and degree of its contamination. They have special diagnostic devices and professional equipment for cleaning and disinfection.

Owners of buildings often try to clean ventilation system on their own or hire non-professionals in order to save money. In such cases, it is not possible to diagnose the system completely and perform effective cleaning. Non-professionals are often able to clean the starting section of air duct and just some part of equipment. Some contamination will remain inside and continue to spoil indoor air as it is impossible to reach without special equipment. It is also impossible to disinfect the system without special equipment. Non-professionals may remove dirt only but microbes and bacteria that are harmful to health will remain in the system. Incorrectly selected disinfectant will be ineffective at best and badly affect well-being of people indoors at worse.

ARTS LLP has been successfully working with ventilation and air conditioning systems for twenty years and proved to be a professional in the business. Leading enterprises and organizations of Kazakhstan cooperate with the climate company. Experts of ARTS LLP guarantee high quality of works and comfortable microclimate within industrial and residential premises.

Specialists of ARTS LLP offer a full range of services for effective solution of issues related to ventilation systems of medical and educational institutions, industrial premises, restaurants, shopping centers and other administrative buildings.  These include the following:

– Cleaning of pollution, harmful substances and elimination of bacteria;

– Improving the efficiency of ventilation equipment;

– Saving heating and electric energies;

– Diagnostics of fire safety in air ducts and other parts of ventilation system.

Before cleaning the ventilation, ARTS specialists conduct video inspection of the system for free. We send wash downs from air ducts for examination to the laboratory of sanitary and epidemiological service. This way, the customer receives detailed information on condition of ventilation system. We also check effectiveness of cleaning and disinfection at the end of works via laboratory tests and document it.

For cleaning and disinfection of ventilation systems, ARTS LLP use specialized Finnish equipment, Pressovac. It allows maximum cleaning of harmful substances, suppression of pathogenic bacteria, and creation of a healthy microclimate within your premises.

Request callback

Enter information for callback