The comfort and air quality in work and living environments influence people’s health and ability to perform daily activities. Because of air pollution in closed environments, but also of problems relating to microclimate or other physical pollutants, health-related consequences have been identified: they are linked to the building conditions such as work environment, living environment or environment of collective life (schools, institutes).
This is the Sick Building Syndrome and refers to a specific phenomenon described for the first time in the United States in the Seventies: it characterizes a particular situation of discomfort of the occupants of buildings which showed symptoms such as irritation of the airways, coughs, nausea, fatigue from unknown causes and that disappeared once left the office or home.
In the Eighties, the World Health Organization also recognized the problems related to indoor pollution and bad microclimate in the workplace: the belief that the problem lies in the residents was replaced by the assessment according to which it is the office to be “sick” due to the pollution of the premises.
Although there are many significant episodes recorded worldwide, there are no official methods to diagnose the “Sick building syndrome”: it is not a recognized pathology, but a general wording that helps in describing this peculiar situation. However, it is also true that concurrent factors can be identified: pollutants deriving from building materials, poor ventilation, poor management of heating systems, indoor air pollution, noise and abnormal vibrations.
Mérieux NutriSciences studies the factors that can contribute to indoor pollution, namely chemical, microbiological and physical agents, and it provides useful data to evaluate the healthiness of buildings.
The most common indoor air pollutants Mérieux NutriSciences monitors:
- Acetic acid coming from X-ray devices and silicone
- Carbon dioxide –also produced by human respiration– excessive in environments that are not well ventilated or with insufficient air circulation
- Carbon monoxide, produced by tobacco smoke and devices powered by fossil fuels
- Formaldehyde in glues, adhesives, fabrics and furniture panels
- Oxides of nitrogen, smoke and welding
- Ozone released by photocopying machines, for example
- Radon, a radioactive gas that may be present in building materials
- Volatile Organic Compounds from various sources such as paints, insecticides, machinery, etc.
- Various inorganic gases
- Asbestos or synthetic fibers used for insulation
- Microbiological contaminants, including viruses, fungi, molds, bacteria
As for indoor environments, Mérieux NutriSciences can also monitor physical agents that can affect the well-being and health of people living and staying in the building: noise, vibrations, microclimate and thermal stress.