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Understanding Sick Building Syndrome And VOC Paint

Jul 29, 2008
Does going to work make you sick? Not the Monday morning "I-don't-wanna-gooooo", or the Friday afternoon "Is-it-the-weekend-yet?" kind of sick, but actually sick? Symptoms such as headache, eye, nose or throat irritation, dry cough, dizziness, nausea, or fatigue might signal that your office has Sick Building Syndrome.

Sounds funny, but Sick Building Syndrome is no laughing matter. It's recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency and is described as a situation in which building occupants suffer discomfort (headache, eye, nose or throat irritation, dry cough, dizziness and nausea, fatigue, sensitivity to odors, difficulty concentrating) from being in the building that can't be linked to any other causes or specific illnesses. Ultimately, Sick Building Syndrome means that the air quality in your building is so poor; it's making you sick.

The causes of Sick Building Syndrome are fairly simple. Chemicals in the building contaminate the air; without proper ventilation, they can't escape. The big question here is just how do these chemicals get into the buildings in the first place?

The chemicals that are most likely causing office workers distress are commonly known as VOCs, which stands for volatile organic compounds. VOCs can be emitted as a gas from certain liquids or solid products, and can include a large variety of different chemicals. In particular, VOCs are known to be found in paint, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, building materials, copiers and printers, glues and adhesives, and permanent markers. Carpets are also a huge contributor to low air quality indoors - don't you remember rolling on the brand new carpet as a kid breathing in that lovely new smell. Mmmmm well, let's not do that anymore. Mold, which can be hidden in the walls and ventilation, is also be a culprit. VOCs, as greenhouse gasses, also contribute to global warming.

All of these products have something in common aside from their heightened levels of VOCs: a strong odor. For example, the smell from the painting going on in the office down the hall might come to mind. That's a sign that you're being flooded with VOC exposure right now! In fact, the EPA estimates that levels of VOCs found indoors can be up to ten times higher than those found outside.

If you think you're suffering from Sick Building Syndrome, do what you can to provide yourself with better ventilation by moving near a window, bringing a fan to the office, and taking frequent breaks to get outside. Don't hesitate to alert the management of your situation, and ask if any changes can be made to the ventilation system.

As far as reducing the levels of VOCs inside offices or homes, be sure to search out a non toxic paint with zero VOCs. These do exist and are priced similar to other traditional premium paints. You'll immediately notice that these are low odor paints. In a work situation, low odor paint and zero VOC paint will not only be less distracting to current workers, but will also not harm the health of future workers. If you're painting a new wall, zero VOC paints are the safest for people (as well as for pets and the environment), and are much less likely to result in Sick Building Syndrome.
About the Author
Delilah Jones has a passion for zero VOC paint and its impact to consumer safety. She is also interested in how a 100 percent non toxic paint and low odor paint can correlate.
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