Is your building making you sick?
I woke up again with a stuffy nose, coughing, my body ached and my throat was dry. It was sore. When would it end? When? I could not understand why I was so tired. It was fatigue, fatigue like I had never known. My throat was dry, I was dehydrated and yet I had drunk so much water. How could I be? I moved my aching legs over the edge of the bed and felt the fatigue rushing through my body. I wanted to lie back down and sleep ...... but it was never restful sleep. I didn't reach deep sleep even when I went to bed early. Everyday I forced myself to get up, do the daily chores before driving my heavy body to the office and doing the 9-5 deal.
One day I was driving towards my daily drudgery and my head began to spin. The whole world began to spin and I was nauseous. Very nauseous. I was on a 4 lane freeway and thought what am I going to do? I needed to stop but where and how could I continue on? All the while my world was spinning....spinning out of control. I made it to the side of the road and stopped in the emergency lane. I began to dry retch. I climbed over to the passenger seat and opened the door just in case. The spinning continued......I used my breath to bring some calm to me even though I was scared. So many thoughts ran through my head. What was this from? What could I do to keep the spinning at bay? How would I get to work and make it through the day?
Finally the spinning stopped and I was able to get on the freeway and reach the office. A few days later it happened again and I went to see my physician. We did a whole barage of testing but the results were inconclusive. Inconclusive. As I hung my head in my hands I remembered how tired my body was. I didn't even want to be in it anymore. It was so unpredictable. I could not rely on it to give me what I needed to keep me sane. I thought I was going crazy and could sense my physician thought it too. "Perhaps it is psycho-somatic". Those deadly words. Psychosomatic. How could it be psychosomatic? I wasn't making this up and I am in this body no one else! I know what it feels like and it is not a mental illness! I am not crazy, no I would not believe that. Something was wrong. Very wrong.
One day a friend came to visit me and she said there is a musty smell in the your building. I did not have a sense of smell and hadn't for a long time - my nose was always stuffy. All of a sudden it clicked, the only thing that could create a musty smell is mold. It's mold. There is mold in the building. There is mold in the building was on repeat in my head. I decided to do research and found that many of the symptoms I experienced were related to indoor mold overgrowth. I called a highly skilled Mold Inspector and we did air and swab tests. There were 5 different types of mold in the house including stachybotrys chartarum - the dreaded BLACK MOLD.
How could this happen?
In our busy lives little attention is paid to the quality of where we live and work. We pay exorbitant amounts for homes and/or commercial buildings based on their locations, features and of course personal tastes. We follow the 'standard' requirements for building checks and yet we do not consider the potential for high levels of air contaminants such as mold, micro-organisms, volatile organic compounds and the myriad of other potential hazards. Why is that?
Indeed, it is human nature. Because until something happens we are wholly unaware that it could be a possibility. Sometimes it is what we call experience. However, experience can be costly. I want to bring this to your attention so that we all can learn from each other - the whole purpose of Steemit!
So where does this actually leave us? How many of us are living physiologically mediocre lives with chronic disease that have the doctors guessing? How many of these can be correlated to living in a sick building? Does what is dubbed The Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) really exist?
What is Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)?
According to research SBS is described as the experience of acute health problems which are directly correlated to time spent in a particular location and most especially a specific building. More specifically, these acute health effects may be experienced in one particular part of a building - room/office. Interestingly, health testing is not valuable in these cases and yields inconclusive results.
Signs and Symptoms of SBS:-
- Eye, nose or throat irritation
- Dry cough
- Dry or itching skin
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to odours
- Horse voice
- Cold and flu-like symptoms
- Personality changes
Although SBS is difficult to quantify and verify once the source of contamination is identified and the health condition of occupants is not acute but chronic it is labeled as a building related disease. Therefore testing has identified the contaminant and there is a direct cause for symptomatology.
The symptoms and elements of building related disease are as follows:-
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath.
- Extrinsic allergic alveoli disease
- Legionnaire's disease
- Occupational asthma
Types of Contaminant
Building contamination may be varied and is closely related to contemporary understanding of environmental toxicity. A case in point is the use of asbestos in home ceilings/roofs. Until the late 1970s asbestos was considered appropriate for use but later this was revised as more evidence suggested its link to lung cancer. If you think contaminants are relegated to your home of office building alone, think again. Mold has been found in the transplant rooms in hospitals with mold infections running rampant with fatal consequences.
Mold is commonly found outdoors and is a part of the natural worlds clean up crew. If you spend time in the outdoors and watch the natural cycle of life you will see that mold/fungus plays an important part in the recycling of dead matter into the Earth thus providing the needed nourishment for the soil, bacteria and plants and trees. However, in an enclosed environment high levels of mold spores can be deadly.
The most common indoor molds are:
- Cladosporidium - can grow in cool areas, found on fabrics, carpets, wood surfaces and can cause a variety of respiratory problems.
- Penicillium - grows on water damaged materials, such as carpeting, wallpaper, insulation and mattresses.
- Aspergillus - respirator reactions and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
- Alternaria - causes allergic reactions, respiratory infections, hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
- Stachybotrys chartarum(toxic black mold) - the mold itself is not toxic, however, it produces toxic compounds called mycotoxins that are seriously harmful to the body and brain. It causes allergic reactions, sinus problems, respiratory infections, fatigue, depression, ADHD, brain infections and brain damage.
- Fusarium - can grow and spread at lower temperatures, grows on water damaged carpeting and other fabrics, causes allergic reactions, asthma, respiratory infections and those with compromised immune e systems are vulnerable to infections from this type of mold.
- Chaetomium - grows on carpets, drywall and window frames that have sustained water damage - it is associated with the musty smell associated with mold.
- Aureobasidium - grows on wooden surfaces, wallpaper, painted surfaces and can be pink and black, allergic reactions are common.
- Botrytis - grows in areas of high humidity such as bathrooms with poor ventilation, causes allergic reactions such as asthma.
- Serpula lacrymans - yellow mold and causes dry rot.
- Trichoderma - grows on damp carpet, wallpaper and other wet surfaces, produces mycotoxins similar to stachybotrys chartarum and similar health problems.
- Ulocladium - requires a lot of water so grows in areas of excessive water damage, flooding would be a perfect environment for this type of mold.
- Efflorescence - are salt deposits often confused with white mold in a basement.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Not only are molds common place in SBS but we cannot ignore the role of VOCs. VOCs are defined as chemical or microbial contaminants found in building materials and the like.
Some common VOCs are:
VOCs from formaldehyde (incidentally much of the laminate flooring that is manufactured in China is s
prayed with formaldehyde which is used also as a retardant in mattresses. Formaldehyde can have short and long term effects; from eye, nose and throat irritation to asthma and even chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and cancer.
Microbial VOCs (MVOCs) - from active colonies of bacteria (mold can be included in this category also).
Pesticides, fungicides and other biocides (these are related to higher risks for leukemia and lymphoma and breast cancer. There is also evidence that long term exposure causes cognitive decline. Additionally, glyphosate has been found to mimic some amino acids in the body thus creates havoc in the body. It can be implicated in diabetes, cancer, leaky gut, autism, obesity and hypothyroidism. Glyphosate has been touted as been harmless to the human body but what is not understood is that we are a walking, talking bacterial environment - glyphosate effects the micro biome of the body and is detrimental to brain and body function).
Fuel or refrigerant leaks.
Dander, insects and other biological allergens.
A recent study suggests that not only is mold detrimental to lung health but it has significant impacts on brain health. A University in New York exposed mice to black mold spores and found that their fear response was altered, they exhibited more anxiety and memories were affected. Indeed, results revealed that the mold resulted in brain deficits that resulted in decreased neuron cells in the hippocampus (most involved with memory).
Many anecdotal experiences show how devastating toxic mold can be. Most especially for 25% of the population who has the hla-dr gene mutation that makes them most susceptible to mold poisoning.
VOC's may be placed in the same category. Without a doubt it places a high toxic burden to the body and thus cannot be ignored.
There are a myriad of economical implications where SBS is involved. These can be described from an individual, collective and corporate level. Economical repercussions of SBS are far reaching. On an individual level it increases absenteeism that reduces the productivity and the earning power. In turn, at the corporate level this creates gaps in knowledge, a lack of work flow, reduced productivity and the burden to find a temporary replacement. At the collective level it places pressure on health and family systems who absorb the burden of health complications that result in familial economic disaster with no solution in sight. SBS can not only devastate health but destroy family prosperity and lead to a total breakdown of familial unity as it affects the body and mind of poisoned individuals.
Environmental medicine is an emerging branch of medicine that recognizes and investigates the effects of the environment in health and disease. Until the early 2000's this key ingredient in health was dismissed as unimportant which clearly through this article is inaccurate.
How is your environment affecting you?
Brookshire, B. (2014). Mold may mean bad news for the brain. Retrieved on 14 June 2017 from https://www.sciencenews.org/article/mold-may-mean-bad-news-brain.
Burge, P., S. (2004). Sick building syndrome. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 61, 185-190.
Harding, C, et al. (2014). Mold inhalation, brain inflammation and behavioral dysfunction. Society for Neuroscience Meeting, Washington, DC.
Sumedha, M. J. (2012). The sick building syndrome. Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 12(2), 61-64.
Sanjay, G. (2015). Interview with mold survivor Sandy Wolfe. Retrieved 14 June 2017 from http://www.moldsensitized.com/interview-with-a-mold-survivor-sandy-wolfe/.
Picture Source: Pixabay