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Do you work in a sick building?

It may surprise you to learn that buildings, like people, can become sick. If you begin sneezing or coughing or wiping your watering eyes every time you walk into your Florida office, your building could be sick and making you sick, too.

The Environmental Protection Agency advises that buildings can become sick from the following four sources

  1. Poor ventilation
  2. Indoor chemical contamination
  3. Outdoor chemical contamination
  4. Biological contamination

Poor ventilation

Your building’s ventilation system could be totally inadequate to the needs of your workplace, especially if you work in an older building. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers advises its members to provide at least 15 cubic feet of outdoor air per minute for the normal office space and 20 cfm for dusty, smoky or fume-filled spaces. Nevertheless, federal law only requires five cfm.

Indoor chemical contamination

Unfortunately, many things inside your building could be contaminating it, including the following:

  • Carpeting
  • Manufactured wood products
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Copy machines
  • Cleaning products

Outdoor chemical contamination

Even if you work in a modern supposedly airtight building where you cannot open the windows, outdoor contaminants such as pollen, vehicle fumes and/or a nearby building’s exhaust fumes can get into your building through the doors where people go in and out. Pollen and even bird droppings can also get into your building on people’s shoes and clothing.

Biological contamination

Perhaps the most frightening kind of contamination results from biological contaminants. If you work in a high-traffic building or one that provides health care services, the germs that sick people bring in on themselves can get into your workspace, too. And if you work in any type of a damp environment, your building faces a high risk of contamination from bacteria, molds and viruses, all of which thrive on damp surfaces provided by ceiling tiles, carpeting and air ducts.

Should you suspect that your building itself is causing your unpleasant symptoms, advise your supervisor. Possibly (s)he or a member of your company’s management team can schedule a professional site survey that will confirm your suspicions. If so, your building may require a complete clean-up. If that does not solve the problem, you may have a legitimate complaint against your employer.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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