Sick Building Syndrome

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Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is the common name for a host of physical complaints experienced by a large percentage of building occupants.  Common symptoms include headache; eye, nose and throat irritation; dry or itchy skin; dizziness; nausea; and sensitivity to odors.  Occupants often complain of chronic fatigue and the inability to concentrate.  Some suffer allergic reactions and asthma.  Most occupants report relief when leaving the building. 

When complaints escalate to illnesses with coughing, chest tightness, fever, chills and muscle aches, occupants or workers are suffering from a “building-related illness.”  It may take long periods of time to recover from these illnesses.

In most cases, indoor air pollution accounts for these problems.  The pollution can come from several sources, most notably:

Air sampling for contaminants

Sampling for contaminants might seem to be the logical response to the employee complaints, but it seldom provides information about possible causes.  While certain basic measurements, e.g., temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide, and air movement, can provide a useful depiction of current building conditions, sampling for specific pollutant concentrations is often not required to solve the problem and can even be misleading.  Contaminant concentration levels rarely exceed existing standards and guidelines even when employees continue to report health complaints.  Air sampling should not be undertaken until considerable information on the factors listed above has been collected.  Any sampling strategy should be based on a comprehensive understanding of how the building operates and the nature of the complaints.

Solutions to Sick Building Syndrome

Solving this problem usually will include combinations of the following: