Reaction to synthetic fabrics and petro-chemical fumes lighting flicker, allergy to fungi, and sensitivity to positive ions in the air can Individually produce headaches in susceptible people, but more commonly one, two or more of them act together. A recently labelled condition is the ‘sick building syndrome’, in which people in a particular office find that just attending work makes them ill, with headaches, a feeling of malaise, sniffles, and maybe even a slight temperature.

Sick building syndrome has a very loose definition, but quite a number of problems are relevant: poor ergonomic design of the computers and office furniture; fungal spores in the air-conditioning system; windows that won’t open so there are lots of positive ions inside; offices lit exclusively by fluorescent lighting; newly painted walls and new carpets that are giving off chemical vapours; and duplicators and photostat machines that exude chemical solvents. And, of course, it’s made worse if some of the employees smoke.

The cure for ‘sick building syndrome’ is to remove as many of the unwanted sources of stimuli as possible – cleaning up the air humidifying system using antifungal agents; fitting non-flicker fluorescent lights; and making sure that windows can open to let fresh air in from the outside, both to provide more negative ions, and also to blow away petro-chemical fumes, fungal spores and tobacco smoke.


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