Tight Home Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions
The Environmental Protection Agency report finds that Americans spend more than 90% of their time inside buildings, where levels of some pollutants are approximately 2 to 5 times more compared to their outdoor levels.
With the high indoor pollutant concentrations, there is a high chance you could develop the tight home syndrome. Therefore, you should take protective measures to reduce the risk of developing this issue, or if you have already developed it, you should take right steps to restore your health.
For this, it is best to get your indoor air quality tested by experts and find what could be negatively influencing your health.
This article explains what stuck home syndrome is and how you can identify and get rid of its causes.
Tight Home Syndrome
Tight home syndrome, also known as sick building syndrome or stuck home syndrome, is an illness that causes acute health effects in the occupants of a building. It is thought to be caused by inadequate ventilation or a high concentration of indoor pollutants.
According to CPSE.gov, around 30% of the modern buildings with ‘energy conservation’ designs have poor indoor air quality, meaning people living in such buildings have a high chance of developing this syndrome.
Tight building syndrome has a wide range of symptoms that often makes it challenging to identify the issue. People may self-diagnose themselves with the common cold due to the similarity between the symptoms of both conditions.
What separates stuck home syndrome from similar conditions is the fact that its symptoms disappear when you leave the building in question and then reappear when you enter the same building again.
What are the Causes of Tight Home Syndrome?
Here are the most common causes of tight house syndrome.
One of the most common causes of tight house syndrome is poor ventilation.
Ventilation issues occur when sufficient outdoor air does not enter a building due to a non-functioning HVAC system, poor building structure, etc. As a result, the concentration of biological and chemical pollutants gradually increases in the building.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the standard airflow in a building should be at least 15 cubic feet of outdoor air per minute. If you have a ventilation issue, your airflow will probably be lower than the mentioned value.
Lack of Fresh Air
Due to the energy crisis, modern energy-efficient buildings are sealed up tightly, so no air leaks out of or into the building. Resultantly, high levels of indoor gases, odors, and dust build-up are not diluted with outdoor air, leading to the tight home syndrome.
Indoor air filtration helps remove airborne particulates, improve indoor air quality, and keep the cooling system running optimally. Poor filtration can cause opposite effects and lead to respiratory system issues.
Increased Relative Humidity
The level of relative humidity in a building should not exceed 50%. More than this amount can make you feel suffocated, hot, and sticky.
More than 40 million homes in America have gas-burning stoves. Unintended leakage of gas from them or any other gas-burning appliance can lead to the accumulation of methane or gaseous products in a building. People may not detect the presence of odorless gases around them and develop tight house syndrome.
Blown In Polyurethane Foam Insulation
Polyurethane foam insulation is used in modern buildings to provide heat and sound insulation. Faulty application of this insulation increases the concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and indoor air pollutants in the building.
People living in such buildings report feeling dizzy, chest tightness, throat irritation, headaches, and sinus congestion.
Lack of Attic Circulation-Roofing Ventilation
An attic ventilation system is required to control temperature and humidity levels in the attic. High humidity contributes to mildew and mold growth, which can be problematic for people having respiratory issues.
Lack of an attic ventilation system can increase indoor air pollution by up to 50%, increasing the risk of sick building syndrome.
What are the Symptoms of Tight Home Syndrome?
Symptoms of the stuck home syndrome vary from person to person, making it difficult to diagnose the issue. They are similar to the symptoms of allergies, colds, and flu, which may further complicate the diagnosis.
Enlisted below are common symptoms people having sick building syndrome report.
- Sore Throat: A form of throat irritation that worsens when you swallow something.
- Headaches: Discomfort or pain in the head, face, or neck.
- Dizziness: A feeling of being weak, lightheaded, or unsteady.
- Eyes Burning: Irritation or itching of eyes that may or may not cause eye redness.
- Congestion: A blocked or stuffy feeling in your nose due to the accumulation of mucus in the nasal passageway.
- Coughing: Irritation of the throat.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Having difficulty focusing on a task or getting distracted easily.
- Skin Rashes: Itchy and painful red skin patches that appear in different areas of the body due to skin inflammation.
- Body Aches: Having sore and inflamed muscles.
You should note that tight home syndrome affects everyone differently. People living in the same building can experience symptoms totally different from each other.
What are the Ways to Mitigate Tight House Syndrome?
If you are experiencing above mentioned symptoms that go away when you leave a building and return when you enter the building again, there is a high chance you have stuck home syndrome.
To get rid of this condition, it is best to get your indoor air quality tested by professionals. They will help you identify the root cause of your sick building syndrome and eliminate it by taking the proper steps.
How Can the Home Building or Office be Tested for Tight Building Syndrome?
Indoor air quality experts diagnose the underlying issue and take meaningful steps to restore air quality.
Our investigation procedure of indoor air quality begins with a walkthrough in which experts inspect the problem area and gather the necessary information to deduce a hypothesis and test it. Based on the test results, we provide the best possible solution to improve indoor air quality.
Here are some important parameters we look at while testing a home or office for tight building syndrome:
- How Much Fresh Air is in the Home: We measure the amount of fresh air in every room to ensure it is up to the recommended value (at least 15 cubic feet of air per minute). Low fresh air quantity indicates air is not circulated well in your home, and you have low oxygen concentration in your building.
- Determining If There is a Ventilation Issue: We test the performance of your ventilation system, and if we diagnose an issue, we offer suitable solutions.
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) Levels: CO is a colorless and odorless gas that causes CO poisoning if you get exposed to its high concentrations for a longer duration. Its average amount in homes having gas stoves is 5 to 15 parts per million (ppm) and 0.5 to 5 ppm in homes that don’t have gas stoves. Electric detectors and different testing methods are used to check levels of this toxic gas in a place.
- Relative Humidity Measurements: The concentration of water vapors in the air is also tested. Relative humidity value tells how much water vapors your building air is currently holding compared to the water vapor amount it can actually hold.
- HVAC System Performing Properly: We check the performance of the HVAC system and see if it is affecting the indoor air quality.
- Formaldehyde Measurements: Smoking, building materials, fabric, furniture, and other household products are common sources of formaldehyde. It is present in both indoor and outdoor air. However, its concentration should not exceed the normal limit.
We test formaldehyde’s presence to see if it is above the normal amount.
- Nitrogen Oxide (NO) Level: Tobacco smoke is one of the most common sources of nitrogen monoxide in homes. Its other sources include stoves, ovens, and other fuel-burning appliances. Elevated levels of NO increase your risk of respiratory system infections and diseases. Therefore, we test its concentration in indoor air to ensure it is within the normal range in your building.
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Levels: Nitrogen dioxide produces the same health effects as NO gas. It is formed when fuels like coal, gas, petroleum, and kerosene are burnt. It is a highly toxic gas even when it is present in low concentrations. We check its concentration in all the possible problem areas to ensure it is within its normal range.
- Total Volatile Organic Compound (TVOC) Measurements: All the volatile organic compounds (benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, etc.) are collectively called total volatile organic compounds (TVOC). They are dangerous for humans and can cause headaches, respiratory tract irritation, and eye irritation.
We measure TVOC levels in the indoor air. If these levels are high, we provide solutions to eliminate this issue.
- Particulate Matter Measurements: Particulate matter is a mixture of tiny suspended particles of liquid and solid matter. They can enter your bloodstream and lungs and lead to serious health problems related to circulatory and respiratory systems.
Measuring their concentration in the indoor air tells us if they are the cause of your tight home syndrome. We perform different tests to measure TVOC levels.
Summing It Up
Modern homes, offices, and buildings are negatively impacting the health of their occupants by negatively influencing indoor air quality.
Don’t put your health at risk by neglecting the quality of the indoor air. Hire IAQ Environmental experts to identify the cause of your tight house syndrome and eliminate the issue from its roots!
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