Chicago is a highly dense urban condition that is characterized by a linear architectural configuration, designed to accommodate the growing population of the city. Despite being reputed, as a city that advocated green urban development strategies it is note worthy that most of Chicago’s architectural development pre dates modern green development strategies and technologies.
Although Chicago as an urban condition laid it foundation as a “garden city” that called for green spaces in the fabric it is noted that most of the city dwellers find themselves in doors most of the year due to the extreme weather conditions. Buildings developed using old technology and lacking green strategy coupled with the increasing amount of time Chicagoeans spend indoor can lead to a number of health concerns, particularly the “Sick Building Syndrome”.
The sick building syndrome is a term used to describe a situation in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects linked to the time spent in the building, while no specific cause or illness can be described but symptoms include:
- Skin irritation,
- Non specific hyper sensitivity reactions,
- Skin dryness,
- Gastrointestinal complaints
- Chest tightness
Are all conditions that arise as a part of SBS.
While no direct cause is identified since SBS is the result of many factors that exists within the building that affects the air quality of that building with the inhabitants breathe in. Factors that are primarily responsible for SBS can track to back to:
- Chemical contaminants such as Radon’s, Asbestos, etc, from outdoor sources
- Volatile organic compounds from adhesives, carpeting, wood products, cleaning agents, tobacco, copy machines etc.
- Biological contaminants like pollen, bacteria, and molds
- Poor ventilation
- Radiations from televisions, microwaves, poor wiring
- Poor lighting
Improving the indoor air and environmental quality of the building is a single most effective way that can directly improve the overall physical and mental health of inhabitants along with over all satisfaction since Americans spend 90% of time indoors. Exposure to chemicals present long-term health issues for inhabitants in addition to being harmful to the environment. While there are many ways to prevent SBS by controlling indoor air quality such as: Increased ventilation, indoor plants, regular vacuuming etc. however presenting a single plan to limit and monitor indoor air quality to prevent SBS will be trough the implementation of proper legislations that set standards and limitations on Electromagnetic radiation (EMR).
EMR is non-thermal radiation and does not present warning before affecting human health. In addition there are currently no government standard in North America that established safe human exposure limits, thus putting humans and inhabitants at the risk of high exposures as devices and infrastructure like high power lines, smart meters etc go un monitored and uncontrolled. In the past legislations have proven their significance towards improving indoor air quality by banning CFCs in the Montreal Protocol, thus proving that implementations of regulations and policies can be carried out and can improve human and environmental health.
By placing limits and setting a standard on human exposure to EMR will be a large step towards reducing SBS and ultimately long term health issues that results due to time spent in doors. EMR do not only pose threat to humans but also to animals and plants as they diminish cell’s abilities to produce healthy cells. When life of human, plants and animals is at risk this produces great threats for the larger ecosystem to develop and sustain it self.
Limits and standard will allow business and the state to maintain operations and encourage innovation and research in to alternative strategies that benefit human and environmental health for a thriving ecosystem. A population that is free from SBS will not only be healthy but will also be able to generate larger economic benefits as productivity at work would rise.
Some steps we can take to limit our exposure to EMR:
Limiting cell phone use
Turning off wifi routers when not in use
Keeping electronic at least 6ft away from your bed.