Sick House Syndrome

Sick House Syndrome: 7 Things You Need to Know Now

Could your house be making you sick? According to the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that most people spend more than 90% of their time indoors. Indoor air quality is a huge contributing factor to health—and when 6 out of 10 homes and buildings are afflicted with Sick Building Syndrome, there’s a good chance you could “catch” something from your home. But if you know what you’re looking for, you can alleviate the problems that come with a “sick” building. We’ve identified some key information you’ll need when assessing your house—and clearing up the situation.

By Donna Boyle Schwartz

  1. Health Check Up

    If you experience symptoms like congestion, dizziness, skin rashes, headaches, or nausea—and if these symptoms go away within an hour or two after leaving a building, it could be sick building syndrome. Other, more serious health problems attributed to SBS include allergies, asthma, and chronic fatigue. To protect yourself from a multitude of pollutants, learn what areas of your home could be impacting your health, and how to eliminate risk factors.

  2. Air Quality Index

    Did you know outdoor air quality is higher than your average indoor air quality? Limited ventilation bottles up dangerous VOCs and other indoor pollutants. While today’s tightly-insulated homes do a good job of conserving energy, they can also keep those dangerous toxins inside. So when you can, open the windows to air out your home; make sure all your vents are open, clear, and obstruction-free to maintain the flow of air.

  3. Indoor Pollutants

    The sources of indoor air pollution are probably right under your nose. Formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can hide in carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products—and even cleaning supplies. If you’re planning a renovation, check labels and materials to be sure you’re not bringing unnecessary toxins into your home.

  4. Outdoor Sources

    Not all of the outdoor air that enters a building is beneficial for air quality. For instance, motor vehicle exhaust or diesel fumes can enter your home through poorly located air intake vents, windows, and other openings, such as the garage. Make sure to properly seal off the garage, and install a carbon monoxide detector while you’re at it.

  5. Biology Class

    Bacteria, molds, and mildew can contribute to sick building syndrome. These elements generally are found in high humidity areas like basements and bathrooms, or places where stagnant water has collected in drain pans, ducts—or even leaky ceilings. Learn how to prevent mold and mildew.

  6. Check It Out

    If you want to solve sick building syndrome, start by identifying and eliminating the main sources of indoor air pollution. A thorough inspection should include the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system as well as the ductwork—and remember to check the attic and under floors for proper air circulation. For a pro opinion, call in a licensed home inspector.

  7. Problem Solving

    To make sure your home isn’t at risk for sick building syndrome, make sure to perform a few key maintenance musts: regularly clean and replace HVAC filters, ensure proper venting, and clean the furnace every year. Outfit high humidity areas like the bathroom with ventilation fans, and replace water damaged floors or ceilings. And don’t underestimate the power of plants: add air-purifying houseplants like snake plants, dragon trees, or peace lilies, which pull impurities from the air.



Custom Contracting, Inc. 1267A Massachusetts Ave. Arlington, MA 02476 Phone: 781-648-2835 Fax: 781-648-0907 Email:

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