You May Not Be Breathing The Air You Think You Are

Feb. 27, 2002
With so much attention focused on cleaning up the environment and reducing outdoor air pollution, not enough attention is given to the quality of air indoors, says one expert.

With so much attention focused on cleaning up the environment and reducing outdoor air pollution, not enough attention is given to the quality of air indoors, according to the owner of one Florida-based building and consulting service company.

Tom Smith, owner of Envirotech, said he's seen a dramatic rise in complaints resulting from "sick building syndrome."

"In the 1970s, conserving energy was a major concern. Office buildings were constructed as airtight as possible, with little or no fresh air circulating," observes Smith.

"This is an ideal way for pollutants to accumulate and produce a wide range of health problems," he adds.

Poorly maintained air conveyance systems can result in the growth of a variety of molds that he says can cause lower activity levels and increased absenteeism in occupants. Long or short-term effects, which may show up after a single exposure, include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness and respiratory failure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several infants died as a result of contracting lung disease directly related to inhalation of stachybotrus, a black mold that grows in damp areas of homes and office buildings.

Even at home, there are many sources of indoor air pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood and tobacco products can contribute to poor air quality. Some of the most common indoor allergens are household dust mites, cockroaches and dander. Other factors can also contribute to the air quality such as: asbestos-containing insulation; wet or damp carpet; household cleaning products such as air fresheners; personal care products; hobbies; and central heating and cooling systems.

Smith says has also seen air quality problems related to buildings that were poorly constructed, including improper window installations, shoddy wall construction and HVAC systems that were not installed correctly.

The next time you feel sluggish or have a headache coming on, perhaps reaching for the medicine bottle isn't enough, says Smith, you might want to reach for the phone to call a qualified indoor air quality expert.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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