Barbados does have a Sick Building Syndrome like many other parts of the world; but what are we doing about it? Or better yet, what are landlords or managers doing about it to safeguard the occupants?
Humans are complex beings, and everyone’s physical makeup is different. We all respond differently. For example, one elderly lady I was speaking to about the mold in her bathroom was suffering from multiple allergies, while her husband was symptom-free.
Sick Building Syndrome is where the building occupants experience unusual health issues associated with a building. Although sometimes it is difficult to diagnose, it is a recognized medical condition in Barbados.
Many buildings in Barbados have suffered this condition over the years; maybe it’s a lack of maintenance; you tell me.
Sometimes identifying the cause of the sick building is the key to fixing the issue. Sometimes it may be difficult to isolate because there may be more than one factor and there usually are by the time it’s identified as Sick Building Syndrome.
Chemicals can interact with each other in indoor air and make a mixed chemical cocktail so potent that it starts to make people sick. This depends on where you work and what chemicals are used in your environment.
Most times it may not be your building but a building nearby that can cause your building to get “sick”.
The symptoms you may experience because of sick house syndrome or sick building syndrome are like allergies; increasing in severity, the longer people spend in the building.
Once away from the building, some of the symptoms improve and may even go away. The cause may be the poor indoor air quality in the building.
There are a variety of symptoms. You could have respiratory issues such as throat irritation and breathing difficulties. Also, you could feel a tightness in your chest, or have a runny nose, or you could start sneezing and have a burning sensation in your trunk.
You could develop dry, itchy skin rashes. Headaches that you associate with time spent in the building can be a symptom of sick building syndrome. You could feel dizzy; It could also affect your gastrointestinal tract and you could feel nauseous.
If you have any of those issues mostly when you are work then it may be Sick Building Syndrome
These general symptoms are typical of sick building syndrome. No specific illness is identified with Sick Building Syndrome. You can fix the sick building and fix the illness.
You can have your indoor air tested for particles, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and mold spores. Devices for testing can be bought from most hardware stores in Barbados or find a local company that does this.
If the test shows you have above acceptable levels of any of these pollutants, then you can try and identify the source and get if fixed as a matter of urgency.Removing the source of your allergies or chemical sensitivity may lead to a healthier you.
Along with the indoor air pollutants, you would also want to reduce the dust levels in your home.
Plants to the rescue
Not so fast! There are many problems with the plants for clean air studies. One big factor is that the environment inside closed experimental chambers bears little resemblance to real-life environments within homes and offices.
Another is that there are so many variables in play – specific to plants, these include things such as the size, condition, and number of plants relative to size of space; the health of the plants, meaning they must have the correct amount of light, moisture, fertilizer, pest and pathogen protection; the soil needs to have the correct balance of pH, minerals, organic and inorganic elements, drainage; and the list goes on. Get some or all of those things correct and those plants can be your best friends.
I’m not saying don’t use plants but just know which plants are best, the chart above will help. These plants have low maintenance and are easily available. The benefits which they give are also mentioned. I think every business and building should have some kind of plant that is well maintained. However, do not depend 100% upon indoor plants as an air purifier.
Air Conditioning does not make people sick when properly installed and more importantly properly maintained.
The main problem I have with air conditioning is that it circulates the same air around the room repeatedly so if someone has a cold the germs from sneezing and coughing will travel around the room. The air becomes much drier so putting a humidifier does help a lot.
Humidifiers help your skin stay hydrated and supple. Skin can’t hold onto as much moisture as it can with warm air. You need to supplement [moisture] because when it gets dry enough, the moisture on our skin evaporates into the air.
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