Sampling, Results & Remediation in 300 "Sick Houses"

J.C. May

Inhabitants in "sick house syndrome" (SHS) homes suffer from allergy, asthma, sinus and other respiratory problems, including hypersensitivity pneumonitis and aspergillosis. Reports from 300 SHS homes were compared to randomly-selected reports from 150 homes inspected as part of pre-purchase agreements in the Boston area. SHS homes were almost twice as likely as other homes to have forced hot air heat, central air conditioning and finished/carpeted basements. Elevatedlevels of mold were found in 74% of SHS homes. The largest sources of bioaerosol were found to be carpeting; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment; and beds and sofas. Respirable "carpet dander" from damaged wool carpet fibers can be an irritant. Effective SHS remediation may include: carpet removal; thorough coil /duct/blower cleaning along with replacement of contaminated fiberglass lining materials in HVAC equipment, and cleaning fleecy items with dry (super-heated) steam. Mite-barrier mattress and pillow covers are always recommended. SHS may be a cause for increased asthma rates.