Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Healthy Buildings?


Deborah Grubb

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Health problems related to school buildings can be categorized in five major areas: sick-building syndrome; health-threatening building materials; environmental hazards such as radon gas and asbestos; lead poisoning; and poor indoor air quality due to smoke, chemicals, and other pollutants. This paper provides an overview of these areas, describing the extent of the problem, sources of the problem, and control/regulation of the problem. The term "sick-building syndrome" refers to a host of mysterious illnesses thought to result from tightly sealed, poorly ventilated buildings. In addition, the rapid proliferation of new building materials makes monitoring more difficult. The House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health and Environment (1993) determined that serious environmental threats exist in the air of American schools. Comparative risk studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1990 concluded that indoor air pollution is among the top four environmental risks to public health. Solutions depend upon the specific contaminant. Most, however, can be controlled by installing and using appropriate HVAC systems.