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How to Get Rid of Sick Building Syndrome

Sick building syndrome describes a range of health problems that get worse when some people spend time at home or at the office. These problems can include itchy eyes, skin rashes, allergy symptoms, fatigue, headaches, nausea, and joint pain. Different pollutants in your Fairfax, Virginia, home reduce indoor air quality and lead to different symptoms. You can get rid of sick building syndrome by addressing its causes, like mold, pests, volatile organic compounds, or poor ventilation.

Mold and Mildew

Some molds produce mycotoxins that can bother your skin and cause eye irritation and sinus problems. Mold and mildew grow faster in moist areas and high humidity, so you should use a dehumidifier in spring and summer. Less moisture also makes the air inside your home feel cooler and helps you save on utility bills.

Even a leaky faucet can lead to mold growth, so you should have plumbing problems fixed immediately and check your roof for leaks after storms. Mold can grow in insulation, behind wallpaper, underneath carpeting, and in many other places. Since some people are allergic to dead mold spores, specialists often remove mold from homes and businesses with sick building syndrome.


Pests in your home can lower your indoor air quality and cause many of the symptoms of sick building syndrome. Dust mites are microscopic insects that eat dead skin, dirt, and other components of dust. Many people are allergic to them, and they usually live in pillows, sheets, cloth furniture, carpets, and similar areas. Warm, humid conditions make a dust mite problem more likely. To get rid of dust mites, you should wash your sheets and pillows often in hot water and vacuum and dust regularly. Many people are also allergic to insects like cockroaches and the germs they leave behind.

A professional should check your ductwork for leaks or gaps, and you should have it cleaned about every five years. Otherwise, insects, mice, and other pests could get into your ductwork through leaks or air registers and spread allergens through your home. Dead pests in ducts can also cause unpleasant smells and spread bacteria.  

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are chemicals that evaporate at room temperature. These chemicals include formaldehyde, benzene, acetone, and toluene. They can come from the glues in particle board, flame retardants in carpeting and electronics, paints, varnishes, cleaning products, and other common household or office items.

To reduce VOCs in your home, store cleaning products, paints, fuel for lawn equipment, and similar products in a separate shed or garage. You should also avoid particle board or cover it with a nontoxic sealant. Use natural cleaners and air fresheners like baking soda and water or potpourri. Olive oil and lemon juice make an inexpensive, healthy, and effective furniture polish.


Poor ventilation increases the concentrations of all these pollutants in your home, making sick building syndrome more likely. Better ventilation also reduces mold, mildew, and many pests by reducing condensation. You should keep furniture and carpets away from your air registers and change your HVAC system’s air filters once per month for better air flow. Clean air filters can also remove more pollutants from your home’s air. Open your windows in nice weather, especially if you’re repainting a room or using commercial cleaners.

For even more fresh air, use a mechanical ventilation system with an air filter. An energy recovery ventilator or ERV also has a heat exchanger that cools incoming air in summer and heats it in winter by transferring heat like a heat pump. That way, you can enjoy healthy fresh air without wasting energy. You should have exhaust fans installed in your kitchen and bathrooms and use them when you shower, do laundry, or cook. That way, you can remove pollutants and excess moisture from your home’s air.

Brennan’s Heating and Air Conditioning is a family-owned company with more than 35 years of experience. We can help you install, maintain, and repair a variety of HVAC equipment to prevent sick building syndrome and keep your home comfortable and healthy. Call us anytime at 703-783-0145 for great service.

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