What is Sick Building Syndrome?

Indoor air pollution has become a serious problem. Discussions about indoor air quality emerged in the 1970s as a result of the energy crisis leading to home construction that was more efficient by way of being sealed up tight… and subsequently lacking ventilation.It’s common knowledge that the lack of ventilation is a detriment to air quality in indoor environments. How? Stagnant air inundates the occupants with a concentration of pollution that negatively impacts the respiratory system. Is it any surprise poor indoor air quality is associated with a cough, allergies, and a collective problem called sick building syndrome?

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick building syndrome describes what happens when a combination of indoor air toxins and lack of ventilation meet the human respiratory system. Because the list of pollutants is so many, and their effects so varied, sick building syndrome has a multitude of symptoms and can rear its head in many ways. In general, however, the most prevalent symptoms include eye irritation and nonspecific upper respiratory symptom. [1] Pollutants such as dust, mold, harmful organisms, bacteria, VOCs, toxic gasses, harmful compounds, and chemical vapors can all produce adverse effects. The combination of one or more of these pollutants can multiply the problem and any compound that can pollute the air can be a factor of sick building syndrome, they need not be inorganic “factory” chemicals. Fungi are “natural” but also an especially major biological pollutant in the indoor environment. As long as moisture and oxygen are available, the mold is able to grow. This leads to it being found on nearly any surface in a building, including carpets, ceiling tiles, insulations, any surfaces, wallpapers, or air conditioning systems. Indoor environments that provide exposure to fungus can cause health problems such as allergy, asthma, pneumonia, airway irritation, and many other different toxic effects.

What Factors Contribute to Sick Building Syndrome?

When air pollutants emanate from building materials and furnishings, they are trapped by the lack of ventilation and are left lingering for you to breathe in. Notable pollutants include VOCs and chemicals from simple and common household cleaners or even furniture. A Japanese study evaluated VOCs emitted from nine pieces of home furniture as potential sources of indoor air pollution. Researchers detected formaldehyde and results revealed that VOC emissions from furniture may significantly impact indoor air quality. Formaldehyde? On a couch?

Indoor Pollution Sources

Sick Building Syndrome
  1. Synthetic Insulation
  2. Poor Air Circulation
  3. Lack of Fresh Air
  4. Smoke
  5. Paint Fumes
  6. Dust mites
  7. Synthetic Carpet Outgassing
  8. Pet Dander
  9. Toxic Household Cleaners
  10. Fabric Outgassing
  11. Natural Gas/CO2
  12. Construction Materials
  13. Bacteria From Toilet Bowl
  14. Mold & Mildew
  15. Lead or Toxic Paint
  16. Carbon Monoxide
  17. Oil & Gas Fumes

How Common is Sick Building Syndrome?

Although it’s mainly limited to developed nations, sick building syndrome has become a global problem and received global attention. An examination of 37 buildings throughout California found that all of the buildings had very ineffective filtering systems. Furthermore, many buildings failed to meet ventilation standards. Is it for lack of codes or lack of enforcement? Well, researchers called for regulators to implement more complete building inspections.

Effects on the Workplace

Part of the reason for sick building syndrome receiving so much attention is because it can have horrible and disastrous consequences for workplace productivity. It makes sense, symptoms of SBS are often direct causes for increased absenteeism and can also progress to situations of a class-action magnitude. Recently, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health was asked to evaluate a water-damaged office building where 1300 employees worked and reported respiratory problems, specifically airway irritation. Of course, symptoms were thought to be building related.  Other research has also found that dampness and mold in workplace buildings lead to increased incidence of SBS and reports of bronchial redness.

The Office of Workforce and Career Development at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta examined data collected from employees who were working in a water-damaged building during ongoing repairs and observed no improvement in their respiratory health. They concluded that when a work environment is polluted, it’s not enough to fix the problem as you go along. Relocating everyone to better conditions, while repairs are made, is necessary to create a situation where respiratory health may improve.

Some might expect hospitals to be exempt from indoor air quality problems, right? Well, surprisingly, a survey by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health found that hospital staff experiences indoor air-related symptoms more even often than office workers! Because of the unique environmental needs of hospitals, they recommended the development of a model for resolving indoor air problems.  I agree the effects of inhaling air contamination are absolutely indisputable, especially those with compromised immune systems. Every hospital should have a task force specifically created to address air quality problems.

How to Confront Sick Building Syndrome

Sick building syndrome is a compound problem. When a building lacks ventilation, harmful air pollutants build up to horrible levels and lead to respiratory (and other) problems. Alleviating the problem has to be, at a minimum, a one-two attack. First, ventilation must be increased! Open the window, turn on a fan, consider an air exchange system! Second, reduce the sources of air pollution! As some pollutants are natural byproducts of nature (skin dander), complete removal is difficult… but you can make a world of difference by switching to organic cleaning products, only purchasing organic home furnishings and use non-toxic building materials. Using an efficient air purification system may also help purify your air and remove toxic invaders. Natural versions of Lysol may also be underway. Cedar leaf oil, from the Western red cedar, was evaluated in a Canadian Study as a safe cleansing agent for applications in buildings. Specifically, the alleviation of sick building syndrome.  Your lungs are constantly working and if you’re like most people, you spend a lot of time in your home and workplace – be proactive in making sure the air you breath is clean, healthy, and satisfying.

What to Do In a Mental Health Emergency

Many people are confused about what to do in the face of a mental health emergency. What constitutes a mental health emergency? As with any medical emergency, a mental health emergency can be life threatening. Most of the time mental health emergencies are those involving the threat of suicide or the occurrence of an actual suicide attempt. Other types of mental health emergency may involve the threat of harm to another person. In a situation where a patient is decompensating or becoming psychotic and is being guided by audio/visual hallucinations, it is sometimes possible that there is a threat posed to another person. This is relatively rare but it can happen if someone is extremely agitated, on hallucinatory drugs or is in the grip of an extremely serious psychotic episode with paranoid thoughts that others are planning to harm the individual.

Friends, family, and neighbors are often confused about what to do in the event of such an emergency because they do not who to call for help. Generally, people expect to call their doctor’s office and get an emergency appointment if someone has a high fever or another type of physical symptom. However, it mostly unlikely that anyone can call their psychiatrist for an appointment under the circumstances above. Most psychiatrists are not equipped to handle emergencies in their private offices. That is why when people attempt to call their therapist during off hours they usually hear a recorded message instructing them to go to the emergency room in the event of a crisis.

When someone is in the midst of a severe emotional crisis characterized by suicidal or homicidal intent it is unlikely that they will willingly go to the emergency room even if accompanied by a friend or family member. That is why it is most often necessary to call emergency services at 911 and report that someone is in danger of attempting suicide or has already swallowed pills, cut themselves or done something life threatening. Emergency services in most communities will then send both the police and an EMT ambulance to the site of the reported threat. Both police and the EMT workers will assess the situation and decide whether or not the person needs hospitalization. If the threat is deemed as serious as the phone call indicated they will bring the patient to the hospital emergency room where they will undergo further evaluation and wait until arrangements are made in a local psychiatric facility. Once moved to a psychiatric hospital the patient will be medicated and stabilized until the crisis has passed. The treatment usually includes meetings with the psychiatrist and attendance at group psychotherapy sessions. Once the patient is deemed safe the psychiatric hospital will either return the person home with medication and with recommendations for continued treatment. This process includes meetings with the family members of the patient.

It is extremely important that threats of suicide be taken seriously. This is especially true if the threats have been voiced repeatedly or the person is inebriated or under the influence of drugs. It is a dangerous myth to believe that suicide threats are harmless attempts to get attention. I know of a recent case in which someone repeatedly threatened suicide, no one would listen and the individual, in despair, succeeded in their suicide attempt.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness.

Understanding the issues concerning suicide and mental health is an important way to take part in suicide prevention, help others in crisis, and change the conversation around suicide.

We Believe

Hope Can Happen

Suicide is not inevitable for anyone. By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives.

We Can All Take Action

Evidence shows that providing support services, talking about suicide, reducing access to means of self-harm, and following up with loved ones are just some of the actions we can all take to help others.

Crisis Centers are Critical

By offering immediate counseling to everyone that may need it, local crisis centers provide invaluable support at critical times and connect individuals to local services.

Know the Risk Factors

Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. They can’t cause or predict a suicide attempt, but they’re important to be aware of.

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship(s)
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and the Internet)

Know the Warning Signs

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

utah-suicide-factsFind Behavioral Health Services

Utah Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse

The Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH) was created as Utah’s substance abuse and mental health authority. DSAMH oversees the publicly funded prevention and treatment system. If you, a friend, or family member is struggling with a mental health problem or a problem with alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, there is help available

SAMHSA National Helpline

1-800-662-HELP (4357)
TTY: 1-800-487-4889

Also known as, the Treatment Referral Routing Service, this Helpline provides 24-hour free and confidential treatment referral and information about mental and/or substance use disorders, prevention, and recovery in English and Spanish

Other Crisis Resources

Veterans Crisis Line

1-800-273-8255 / Press 1
Text to 838255

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255
TTY 1-800-799-4889

Trevor Lifeline

1-866-488-7386

The Trevor Project provides support to LGBTQ young people 24/7.

Utah Domestic Violence LINKLine

1-800-897-LINK (5465)

University of Utah Statewide Crisis Hotline

801-587-3000, TTY: 801-587-8511

The Warm Line

801-587-1055 – 3:00p – 11:00p

The Warm Line is a recovery support line available daily from 3 p.m.–11 p.m. Certified peer specialists provide callers within Salt Lake County with support, engagement and encouragement. They promote wellness in a nonjudgmental and respectful manner by listening, empowering a person to resolve his or her own problem, and fostering a sense of hope, dignity, and self-respect.

Crises Services

Help Is Available

If you or someone you know is in a life threatening emergency
or in immediate danger of harming themselves, please call 911.CIT-Logo

If you are requesting help for a mental health crisis when calling 911 ask for a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) Officer- they are specially training to help with someone in a mental health crisis.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Find Local Crisis Support

Mental Health Crisis Lines operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are open to anyone needing mental health crisis services.

Click on the map above for crisis counseling, mental health information, and referrals in your county. All calls are confidential and may be made anonymously.

http://utahsuicideprevention.org/map/map.html

County Crisis Phone Number
Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane (800) 574-6763
Box Elder (435) 452-8612
Cache, Rich – After Hours (435) 752-0750(435) 757-3240
Carbon (435) 637-0893
Davis (801) 773-7060
Daggett, Uintah (435) 828-8241
Duchesne (435) 823-6823
Emery 911 or (435) 381-2404
Grand (435) 259-8115
Juab, Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier, Wayne After Hours (800) 523-7412(877)-469-2822
Salt Lake UNI (801) 587-3000
San Juan (435) 979-1588
Summit (435) 649-9079
Tooele (435) 882-5600
Utah (801) 373-7393
Wasatch (801) 318-4016
Washington (435) 634-5600
Weber & Morgan (801) 625-3700