Sick house syndrome is a term which describes a house or apartment that has indoor environmental problems that can make the household members ill. In fact, there is much evidence that 28 percent of homes have some type of environmental problem which is affecting the occupants.
Here are the Top 5 common indoor environmental problems which may lead to acute or chronic illnesses:
- Mold. All persons have been exposed to mold regularly throughout their lives. Mold particles which are present in large amounts in the indoor environment can lead to chronic respiratory illness. A mold particle from a dried-out mold spore can effect a persons health dramatically if a person has a predisposition or an allergy to that particular species. Many airborne mold particles found indoors come from outdoor sources when the doors or windows are open. Molds can be more prevalent in properties adjacent to standing creeks or ponds. The most common source for amplification of mold is within the air-handling cooling coils and plenum areas where the spores can easily spread throughout the central duct system. It is common to have elevated mold counts following a water leak or flood in the indoor space, especially in wall-to-wall carpeting.
- Carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is referred to a the “Silent Killer” and takes the lives of hundreds of people every year in the United States and abroad. Gas-burning appliances such as stoves, water heaters and furnaces are the leading causes of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home. Poorly maintained wood-burning fireplaces and stoves may also lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Even motor vehicles left running for extended periods of time in attached garages may lead to illnesses and deaths in the indoor environment.
- Bacteria. Bacteria in the home is another indoor environmental pollutant which can lead to illness. Common areas where bacteria can originate and become airborne are kitchens and bathrooms. A little known breeding ground for excess bacteria growth in the home is a vacuum cleaner bag. Bacteria-laden particles can enter the air each time the vacuum is used and can grow at a rapid rate of thousands per day.
- Household chemicals. Household chemicals such as aerosols, bleach and other strong chemicals can cause chronic upper respiratory illnesses from their use. In addition, chemicals which are used without gloves may absorb into the skin and can eventually lead to chronic illnesses months or years in the future.
- Lead. Lead contamination from old paint applied in a house or apartment structure before 1978 can still present an indoor air pollutant problem. In addition to paint chips, lead-laden dust from previous sanding of doors and trim may still be present in the indoor environment years later.
Written by Stan K. Hall