What is Sick Building Syndrome?

14 12 2007
“Remember ‘Sick Building Syndrome?” “This came about as commercial construction materials were developed with toxic compounds.  Nobody ATE those materials, but people still got sick just from breathing the air near the materials.  All possible side effects of these materials were NOT fully understood.  And that’s the problem with all these chemicals in our everyday items!  [Natural Health, May-June 1993 v23 n3 p54(2)].   My first experience with “Sick Building Syndrome” (also known as product “off-gasing”) was experienced as a child and not realized until an adult as a corporate project manager.  E.g., the final commissioning phase of facilities construction requires customers to wait a specified time to allow proper off-gasing of new materials, i.e., carpets, partitions, ceilings, paints, concrete, etc.  This process allows “proper venting [off-gasing]” of materials allowing inhabitance without creating immediate sickness.  Customer occupation after proper off-gasing periods is an EHS (Environmental Health Services) requirement.  As a child my mother was a seamstress; back in those days I was brought to the fabric storehouses where my mother would spend countless hours rummaging through the numerous dress design pattern-templates and rolls of fabric.
 
I remembered at a young age I would beg my mother not to take me to these places, as I always felt sick after a short period of time inside.  Of course, she assumed my ailment was brought about by pure boredom with no medical basis to back up my claim.  I was ignored and for lack of a better description “I passed out in the childrens play pen area due to the sickness.”  Once out of the environment I immediately got better.As an adult I still experience sick building syndrome at certain establishments.  It can be clothing, sporting goods stores, or newly commissioned buildings that have this effect on me.  The last severe episode occurred while in a brand name sporting goods store about 15 years ago.  I remember walking into the store with my wife; the product chemical off-gasing in the store was so strong I quickly became disoriented and felt I was going to go unconscious.  My wife and I immediately left the store.  It wasn’t until this episode my wife realized I was not faking this sickness to get out of shopping with her [“come on, a sports store, hello”].   On the contrary, I do like to shop, but am very sensitive to building and product toxins that are still in the process of off-gasing [this may be my saving grace, I can get out before I inhale too much, where others have no such warning system].
 
In the last Health Blog I wrote “Is Cancer in Your Tub?”  “Sick building-product syndrome” is the same issue where instead of absorbed through the skin by household products, you inhale the toxins.
 
Suggestion:  If you walk into a store and smell a strong chemical odor, or begin to feel sick, immediately leave and shop at a different store with better ventilation.  Let management know you’ll be back after they improve their ventilation system.  I will not step foot in any store that brings about an immediate feeling of sickness, or health risk knowingly.  In most cases, even with good ventilation, I cannot stand to be in most stores with lots of carpet and clothing for more then 30 minutes.  Most material off-gasing you breath are “known carcinogens.”   Do not take my word for it, go to any search engine on the Internet and type in “Off-gasing and carcinogen,” you be the judge.

Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET.  2007 Copyright.  All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @: www.mirrorathlete.com
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