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SICK BUILDING SYNDROME AND ITS CAUSES. FUNGUS, MOLD AND BACTERIA, ETC.

Indoor pollutants causing "Sick Building Syndrome", SBS, is not only hazardous to your health but also hazardous to the economic life of your business or building. Loss of building materials, furnishings, drops in productivity, increased heath care costs, increased worker absence, loss of tenants, fear and rumors among prospective new tenants and Realtors and increased liability are some of the problems associated with SBS. Testing, investigations, cleanups can be costly if a problem is left alone to grow.

Indoor air pollution problems were magnified when the energy efficiency standards were changed dramatically in the early 1970's. Circulation of air in an office building was reduced by 80%. Poor circulation literally left the door wide open to the many pollutants, bacteria, mold and mildew that can develop and contaminate a building air circulation system. It is no wonder that many of the occupants in office buildings develop symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, burning eyes, sore throat, just to name a few. Over time the severity steadily gets worse as exposure is prolonged.

Not only employees and tenants suffer, but the buildings themselves suffer as well. Deterioration and structural degradation are common effects. The building is not going to crumble before your own eyes but occupational safety issues and values of buildings can deteriorate within a very short time period.

Indoor pollutants can consist of particulates, gases or biologicals. The diversity of each is great and some forms of each may be present at some levels in healthy buildings. Various insects, mites, ticks, protozoans, bacteria and fungi are what make up the biological category. Biologicals interact so dramatically, directly, and destructively with buildings, and its inhabitants that they have earned the to be called the most potent of all pollutants. Even more significant is the fact that the biologicals can be tied to all of the human responses that we associate with SBS. Besides the bacterial, fungal (mold, mildew and yeast), and viral disease causing organisms, there are a number of these organisms that cause allergic responses in sensitive individuals. Legionella bacteria, lung staphylococcus and pseudomonas are all part of biologicals found in buildings.

By simply looking at your building, you will see areas where pollutants originate, enter, move around, and then exit. HVAC system, windows doors, venting problems, elevator shafts, and even people movements are pathways for pollutants. Areas where moisture is noticeable are also good indicators of possible pollutant sources. Condensation of pipes, windows, doors, faucets, and even over watered plants are great places for mold to grow. Leaks from roof, or within wall cavities with residual moisture is ideal location for molds to grow. The wall or ceiling cavity will function as thermos in a sense because it will take very long for a closed space to dry out. Mold can therefore develop and grow over extended time periods and suddenly appear in many locations.

Microbes are part of our everyday life, but in certain conditions can multiply from one organism to more than one billion in just 18 hours. Most people think, mistakenly, that since that cannot see the organisms, they offer no real threat to us humans. In reality these microscopic beasts, among other factors, are being implicated as primary and contributory factors leading to an array of health concerns in the work place. The broad spectrum of microbes are particularly potent because they can cause a full breath of discomfort, irritation, allergies, sensitization, toxic reaction and disease.

The various fungi that occasionally receive "bad press" are generally those that are known to produce chemicals referred to as mycotoxins or aflatoxins. There chemicals are known to cause headaches, bleeding of the lungs, and cancer in agricultural workers, babies, or sick individuals that may be more susceptible than young, healthy people. Exposure routes, doses, pathogenicity and susceptibility of individuals are not fully understood but when these organisms are present they should be considered a serious concern and actions should be implemented. Stachybotrys chartarum, Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus versicolor and a few others are prominent in this group of fungi. Algae, the most understudied of all microbial pollutants, can cause staining and are known to have proteins that stimulate allergic response in sensitive individuals.

Pollutant control starts with the identification, potential sources, and their pathways to unsuspecting occupants. Following these three steps, mitigation and prevention strategies can be defined and implemented. Pollutants are everywhere and the distinction between tolerable and intolerable levels is very important. Absolute control is not a practical goal. Due to this fact, the ALARA principal (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) is a commonly used and accepted guideline.

AUREOBASIDIUM
Aureobasidium are common in both outdoor and indoor air. It is extremely common on bathroom walls, shower curtains, etc., and causes mildews. It has also been isolated in flooded areas of buildings, as well as from soils, plants and other substrates. Aureobasidium has been associated with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in some individuals.

BACTERIA
Bacteria are known to cause diseases either as pathogens or as opportunistic pathogens. The pathogenicity (ability to cause a disease) is determine by both the bacteria and the host defense responses. the types of bacteria present are rarely identified in sample because of the cost of the analysis. The presence of bacteria in the air should not cause alarm since they are common in air and usually pose no problem to individuals with functioning immune systems.

CLADOSPORIUM
Cladosporium are composed of over 500 species and are very commonly found in outdoor, as well as indoor air. It has been isolated from fuels, wood, plant tissues, face cream, air, soil, foods, textile, etc. these organism are found everywhere and pose little problems except in every high concentration.

PENICILLIUM
Penicillium is a very large group of fungi and is valued as producers of antibiotics. It is commonly found in the soil, in the air and on living vegetation, seeds, grains, and animals, as well as on wet insulation. Penicillium has been associated with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in some individuals when present in high concentrations.

STACHYBOTRYS
This is the most common hazardous mold that will cause allergenic reactions, and causes hard to detect health problems. Office occupants are many times unable to continue working in an arera infected with Sachybotrys and home occupants are forced to seek medical attention or move out. Even small amounts of these mold spores can affect most people. The mold can develop from a leak in walls or ceilings when water is allowed to remain for many hours or days.

RHODOTORULA
Rhodotorula is a commonly isolated yeast. It is frequently isolated from humidifiers and soil. Rhodotorula may be allergenic to susceptible individuals when present in sufficient concentrations.

STERILE FUNGI
Sterile fungi are common to both outdoor and indoor air. These fungi produce vegetative growth but yield no spores for identification. their presence will increase CFU/L and since they are derived from ascospores or basidiospore, the spores of which are likely to be allergenic, these fungi should be considered allergenic.

YEAST
Various yeasts are commonly identified on air samples. Yeasts is not known to be allergenic, but they may cause problems if a person has had previous exposure and developed hypersensitivities. Yeasts may be allergenic to susceptible individuals when present in sufficient concentrations.

For additional information on mold abatement or air quality testing, please contact A.Q. Management & Control.

 
 
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