Poor ventilation and the Sick Building Syndrome

KUALA LUMPUR:  There is a high correlation between poor ventilation in a building with the Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), according to a study by Malaysian researchers.

Victims of the SBS will feature symptoms such as upper respiratory and mucous membrane symptoms such as irritated eyes, nose, sinus or throat. Additional symptoms include lower respiratory ones like coughing, a tight chest, wheezing or difficulty in breathing.

In a research paper conducted over April to September 2008, Syazwan Aizat, an academician and researcher at the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Unit of the Community Health Department at the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM and a team of researchers studied the occurrences of SBS in Tower 1, KLCC building, (Building A), which has been in occupied for about seven years and Pusat Tenaga Malaysia in Bangi (Building B), which was only occupied for three months at the time. What the study found was that 68.8% of the staff in Building A exhibited SBS compared with 36.1% in Building B.

“Awareness of SBS is poor in Malaysia and there is a need for education,” he said at the launch of Nippon Paint’s Nippon Odour-less Air Care on Wedneesday May 26.

The paper concluded that to mitigate SBS, good ventilation systems must be in place. “The building manager and owner must take this into consideration to ensure improved air quality,” said Syazwan.

The causes of SBS is related to indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, which is released from products such as clothes, paint, glue used in any furniture or flooring, even chemicals in the drying cleaning process; and other pollutants including carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Humidity also plays a part as it encourages the growth of mold and bacteria in areas that are not well ventilated.

As Malaysia embraces the green building movement, this issue of SBS needs to be addressed especially since buildings such as schools, hospitals, houses and high-rises could be hazardous to the occupants, Syazwan said.
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