Lights, mold, cleaners can cause 'sick building syndrome'

- A day at the office could be making some people sick. And when businesses have a problem, many call Francisco Aguirre's company PureAir Control Services in Clearwater to fix it.

Think of them as sick building sleuths.

"'Sick building syndrome' is a term used to describe a combination of non-specific ailments that are temporarily associated with the workplace," Francisco said. "I have seen buildings that are brand new, and they have not even been finished for occupancy and they are already experiencing indoor air quality problems."

Discomfort can be caused by bacteria, fungi, dust, and believe it or not, lights.

"Lights can also give you headaches, watery eyes and things like that," Aguirre explained.

But there could be something more to some people's symptoms.

Dr. Richard Lockey, an indoor air quality expert and director of allergy and immunology at the University of South Florida, believes there are other contributing factors.

"We have found that buildings are much cleaner in which people work than their own homes," Lockey told us. "Some homes are so filthy that we can't believe it when we go in and test what's in the home. Yet people don't complain about their homes, they complain about the building. So there's a disconnect there."

According to the World Health Organization, a third of all buildings have air quality concerns. But Dr. Lockey has a word of caution.

"It's important for physicians and other healthcare professionals to properly evaluate these patients so you don't inappropriately accuse a builder or owner of a building of something that doesn't exist," he said.

In the end, whatever you think is making you sick at work could be real or imagined, but both experts agree that poor air filtration in the workplace and at home can lead to some allergy-like symptoms.

Be sure to replace filters regularly, and make sure all ventilation systems are working properly.

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