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Sick buildings get a breath of fresh air.

Each year thousands of office workers become ill from exposure to copy machines, furniture, cigarette smoke and even the air freshener found inside poorly ventilated buildings. These common items release dangerous toxins that, if left to accumulate, cause sick building syndrome -- a phenomenon responsible for nausea, headaches and rashes among workers.

Engineers recommend solving the problem by pumping more air into a building to dilute the toxins. But some property owners argue that this solution may increase their expenses while doing little to affect pollutant levels.

To resolve the conflict, Charlene W. Bayer and Christopher C. Downing of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta measured a new, 28-story office building for three common indoor pollutants -- carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde. High levels of carbon dioxide can make building occupants lethargic; the other two pollutants can cause allergic reactions. The researchers found that pumping four times more fresh air into a building caused a significant drop in these pollutants: VOCs dropped 40 percent, carbon dioxide 27 percent and formaldehyde 24 percent.

Normally, this increase in airflow would dramatically hike energy costs. But because the study building was equipped with a total energy recovery system, a device that reclaims energy from vented air for use in conditioning incoming air, the team found energy costs for the structure did not increase.
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Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Feb 15, 1992
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