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Buildings Are Making Us Sick

Alan, an interior designer from Vermont, struggled with a persistent cough and frequent sore throats and colds every winter. Despite seeking medical attention, including being diagnosed with reflux and taking numerous antibiotics, his cough remained stubbornly persistent and even permanently affected his voice. 

One spring, Alan’s doctor visited his office to review his home addition plans and immediately noticed the sharp air. The combination of off-gassing from an ammonia-based blueprint copier and fumes from two construction workshops that shared the building, was instantly recognizable as toxic to the doctor. After a referral to a pulmonologist and additional exams, Alan’s lungs showed damage that resembled the aftermath of a chemical fire.

This experience highlights the importance of being aware of potential environmental hazards in our workplaces and homes. It’s crucial to recognize and address these potential dangers to avoid negative health consequences.

Across the United States, there are many versions of Alan’s story unfolding. Often, we overlook the fact that the air we breathe indoors can have a negative impact on our health. This can be due to pollutants emitted from ovens, stoves, or common household cleaners, as well as respiratory illnesses that can be spread by others in the same space. Unfortunately, many indoor spaces are not designed to consider these potential health hazards.