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You may be sick because your house is sick.

The media have given much attention to the potential hazard of radon gas that may enter our homes from the soil beneath. However, we are only now beginning to hear about something that may be affecting many more of us than health authorities had heretofore supposed: "Sick Building Syndrome" (SBS).

In our efforts to be more energy efficient, we have sealed off our homes to the point where dust mites, mold, and mildew have nowhere to escape. Thus, they accumulate, making our lives miserable. A 1990 study conducted jointly by the American Lung Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that the presence of these airborne biological pollutants may be a major contributor to days lost from school or work. The previous year, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that SBS was responsible for tens of billions in lost employee productivity, medical costs, and absenteeism.

"House dust" allergy, for example, is not caused by dust, but by the dust mite, a tick-like insect so small that a thousand of them can fit on the head of a pin. This biological pollutant excretes waste pellets so tiny and light that the slightest movement of carpets, curtains, or furniture propels them into the air. Because the mites feed on human skin cells that rub off on furniture, one can find them in the same areas of the home where the human occupants spend most of their time.

Thorough cleaning of furniture and furnishings is only part of the solution. In homes that have the circulating-air type of heating and cooling systems, the ductwork becomes infested with mites, mold, and mildew. Blown throughout the house, they produce symptoms that mimic colds or hay fever.

If the return register in your heating or cooling system has accumulated dust and dirt, you can be sure that the ductwork needs cleaning. Another sign of biological infestation of the ductwork is a musty or mildewy smell when the system is first turned on in the spring or the fall.

Cleaning ductwork is a job for professionals, such as Steamatic, Inc., a national franchise business that specializes in cleaning the indoor environment. After thoroughly cleaning the interior duct surfaces, workers sanitize the surfaces with a disinfectant and they spray them with a nontoxic, antibacterial sealant that encapsulates remaining dirt and mildew. Installation of a good filtration system will then keep the ducts clean.
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Title Annotation:sick building syndrome
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Back to the basics!
Next Article:Alzheimer's in Africans and Americans: a comparative study.

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