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Toluene, a common solvent ingredient in paint, lacquer, thinner, coatings and glue, is an established mutagenic by European and US health standards for both males and females, causing genetic diseases and birth defects in subsequent generations. A visit to any local hardware store will reveal shelves of products containing toluene and other established carcinogenic ingredients. Because many of the same materials are used in the home setting, construction workers often underestimate the dangers of hazardous materials in the work place.

Solvent mixtures are generally believed to cause neurotoxic diseases and include other readily recognized names: ethanol, n-hexane, styrene, and xylene. Health research indicates that the combined effects of these products can create synergistic reactions producing even more severe effects than solvents in isolation.

Great benefit can be gained by choosing alternative products for each potentially polluting product, that contain no or minimal hazardous ingredients. These products exist, however, many product manufacturers are smaller businesses with limited lines, so it takes more of a search to find all the alternative matches. Close monitoring is essential to document performance characteristics of these new materials.

The disruption and development of microbial growth during construction can also be a source of potential carcinogens, as many species of fungi produce mycotoxins that have been linked to illness including cancer. Examples of these fungi include: Aspergillus versicolor, Aspergillus flavus and Penicillium. Current research indicates that fungi not only can cause allergic and asthmatic reactions, but can also negatively impact immune response. Therefore, not only is the reduction of microbial disruption in an office setting important, but this reduction is even more important in a hospital or other health care setting to prevent serious respiratory and infectious disease.

Because IEQ problems are an increasing source of litigation, "sick building syndrome" (SBS) has become a dreaded "hot button" issue facing architects, design engineers, general contractors, developers and owners.2 IEQ litigation can be a time-consuming venture that redirects monetary and emotional resources away from growth and development of a business or organization to tedious reconstruction of facts, lengthy depositions, expert reports, etc. This corporate pain creates ample motivation to analyze how best to prevent IEQ problems and implement best-practice strategies.

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