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Toxicology of Buildings

Internal building enviroments are affected by the materials used in their creation and in turn influenced by occupational effects of use. Ventilation is an important factor. Heat loss, security and sound insulation are often factors cited in the lack of natural ventilation. Thus the closed enviroment of a modern building increases the exposure to occupants of chemical compounds which can have a chronic or even an acute effect on the health of those occupants. Constant exposure to a cocktail of chemicals found in textiles, fire retardants, building materials, pvc, paint, and many other materials can provide a constant health threat – add to this emissions from some types of lighting and office equipment and mould spores from atmospheric moisture and the results can lead to sick building syndrome.

The ISSE has produced a Home Log Book with internal enviroment audit to identify the risks and allow property owners to discharge their duty of care to occupiers and identify recommendations and remedies.

The ISSE and their University CPD partner are, with external specialists, researching and developing Institute awarded training courses aimed at housing managers, property owners and letting agents.

The ISSE adopt a holistic approach to this subject – the prevention of build up of ‘toxic’ mould is necessary in its own right but the sensitivity of the occupants should be evaluated and the ISSE Table of Toxins consulted to assess the remaining risks. Should fire retardants, and formaldehyde compounds still be present the occupiers will still be exposed to chemicals they cannot naturally tolerate thus immune deficiency may arise. The adoption of green materials such as untreated wool, sisal, or other materials for floor coverings can have an immediate beneficial effect on health.

Occupants should also be advised about cleaning materials and fluids and personal hygiene products. The human skin is a sensitive organ and potential for absorption of harmful molecules is exacerbated by cuts and inflamed areas.