There are many reasons why commercial and industrial building owners or managers choose to upgrade their air conditioning systems or have units installed for the very first time. In addition to waving goodbye to the system inefficiencies that cause higher energy bills and expensive repairs, there are various health benefits that can be enjoyed through an upgrade. Poor indoor air quality – just one thing that the use of an air conditioning system looks to solve – can cause a variety of unpleasant effects when it comes to the health and well-being of those within. Sick building syndrome (SBS) is just one condition that is caused by poor air quality in the workplace. But rather than preventing symptoms, could your air conditioner actually be exacerbating them?
An introduction to sick building syndrome
It was back in the 1980s when we were first introduced to sick building syndrome. The World Health Organisation (WHO) coined the term following research conducted by their committee, which found that up to 30% of new and refurbished office buildings were breeding grounds for sick building syndrome.
Sick building syndrome is a collection of symptoms thought to be caused by poor indoor air quality. Cases have been recorded across the globe, with workers in offices throughout the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and Japan particularly susceptible. Whilst not a recognised illness, the symptoms associated with sick building syndrome cause the sufferer great distress and discomfort. Symptoms include headaches, runny nose, itchy skin, dry eyes, rashes, concentration problems and fatigue. As a result of the general nature of sick building syndrome symptoms, many SBS cases go unrecognised or are incorrectly diagnosed. Although it’s unpleasant, symptoms of sick building syndrome are not long lasting and do not have any long term impact on the sufferer.
The impact of sick building syndrome
It’s not just individual sufferers who are affected directly by sick building syndrome symptoms. Businesses are impacted by sick building syndrome, which makes limiting the cases of this condition important. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) describes in more detail how sick building syndrome affects the business world:
“The symptoms are often mild and do not appear to cause any lasting damage. To those suffering, however, they are not trivial and can cause considerable distress. In severe cases, they can affect attitudes to work and may represent a significant cost to business in the form of:
- reduced staff efficiency;
- increased absenteeism and staff turnover;
- extended breaks and reduced overtime;
- lost time complaining and dealing with complaints.”
Is getting rid of my air con the answer?
The causes of sick building syndrome can be attributed to a number of factors. Poor ventilation; low indoor air quality; the presence of dust; smoke; fumes and fabric fibres are thought to be the primary causes. Contrary to popular belief, having an air conditioning unit installed can actually alleviate the symptoms of sick building syndrome. However, this is only true if the unit is regularly maintained and serviced. Without the correct routine maintenance and management, air conditioning systems become breeding grounds for harmful contaminants.
Don’t let your air conditioning system become the source of sick building syndrome symptoms. Book in for a free Macair air conditioning and ventilation health check survey today.