Sick house syndrome describes a problem in which the occupants of a house or building experience unusual acute health and discomfort effects. Referred to as sick house syndrome when the illness is believed to be related to the structure and its environment and no specific illness or cause can be identified. Also called sick building syndrome.
For many of us we do not associate sick house syndrome with the air we breath. While we know that fresh air is good for us, we tend to associate it with spending time outdoors. Since many of us spend most of our lives indoors, we should educate ourselves on the danger of what is called sick house syndrome.
Sick house syndrome occurs when our homes, offices, etc. are sealed tightly to prevent noise, pollution, or cold air from entering. Unfortunately, this also prevents harmful fumes caused by the structure itself, paints, cleaning products, deodorizers and wood smoke from getting out. Even our furnishings, paint, carpeting and carpet pad, laminate, hardwood, resilient floors, clothing and furniture are a few of the items that can emit dangerous pollutants.
Sick House Syndrome Symptoms and Treatment Tips
Sick house syndrome studies show that the air in our homes should be changed ten times per day – anything less causes build up of dangerous pollutants. Below are some tips to help avoid sick house syndrome. First, open the windows (just a crack is sufficient) when possible, and check to make sure that all vents are unblocked.
Another problem that lack of ventilation can cause is mold and mildew. This is found to be a danger not only to your health, but it can also damage the structure of your house. Especially in rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms, where humidity is likely to be high, proper ventilation is essential. The use of fans in these areas are helpful at reducing the effects of sick house syndrome.
Also, check areas such as the attic, and underneath floors for proper air circulation. If you have a humidity problem upstairs, it probably means that the attic or roof space needs more ventilation. Be aware that some types of flooring can cause structural damage if there is not adequate ventilation beneath it.
We all want our homes to smell nice, and a clean, well-ventilated house will. But unpleasant odors happen, and we must not become overzealous in using artificial scents that add more pollutants to the air. Aerosols, in particular, are not eco-friendly and often contain nasty additives. Do not fall into the trap of trying to mask over sick house syndrome and create a “fresh smelling” home by adding more chemicals to our already polluted air.
You can easily make your own room deodorizer by sprinkling a few drops of vanilla or essential oil on a cotton ball. Place this in a small open container to prevent the oil or alcohol from damaging your furniture. Other natural room fresheners to use include baking soda, white vinegar, fresh or dried herbs, or even a bowl of fresh apples. And, if you like the scent of fresh flowers, treat yourself to the real thing instead of using an artificial spray. Try to keep chemical-laced cleaners, and perfumed products to a minimum, and use natural products as much as possible.
If you or your loved ones suffer from unexplained drowsiness, headaches or a general malaise, try getting fresher air through the house. Your family and your home with breath easier and avoid the sick house syndrome.
Sick house syndrome and the solid wood floor study of atmospheric pollutants
The Life Cycle Analysis of solid wood flooring conducted by the University of Wisconsin supports this idea. The study compared five different floor coverings in regard to four substances considered to be harmful to the atmosphere: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. All these substances contribute to atmospheric warming and human respiratory ailments. The results of the study show that wood flooring had no emissions for methane, nitrogen oxide and other particulates, and minimal emissions for carbon dioxide.
Wood floors also have the added benefit of not harboring allergens, microorganisms or harmful pesticides that can be tracked in from outdoors. In addition, dust, mold and animal dander contamination is minimal in homes with wood floors, which can significantly improve indoor air quality.
Industry organizations are addressing indoor air quality and Sick house syndrome
The Carpet and Rug Institute launched its Green Label program to test carpet, cushions and adhesives to help specifiers identify products with very low emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Subsequently, CRI launched the Green Label Plus programs for carpet, adhesives and cushion.
The North America Laminate Flooring Association tests products to verify that they are free of air damaging chemicals and those that pass this tests and a number of other tests, qualify for certification.