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Sick Building Syndrome

Sick Building SyndromeThe term “Sick Building Syndrome” (SBS) is used to describe situations in which the building occupants experience acute health and comfort concern that appear to be linked to time in a building, but not specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized to a particular room or zone, or maybe widespread throughout a building. The indicators of Sick Building Syndrome include but are not limited to symptoms associated with acute discomfort related to headache, eye, nose, throat irritations, dry cough, dry or itchy skin, dizziness, nausea, difficulty in concentrating, fatigue and sensitivity to odors. Most complainants report relief soon after leaving the building.

Building Related Illness:

Building occupants complain of symptoms such as cough, chest tightness, fever, chills and muscle aches. The causes of Sick Building Syndrome are inadequate ventilation, chemical containments (VOCs) from indoor sources such as: adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, pesticides, cleaning agents, formaldehyde, tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), respirable particles, biological containments (bacteria, molds, pollen, and viruses). These containments may breed in stagnant water in ducts, humidifiers, drain pans or were water has collected on ceiling tiles, carpeting or insulation. Sometimes insects or bird dropping could be a source for biological containments. Physical symptoms related to biological contamination include cough, chest tightness, fever, chills, muscle aches and allergic responses such a mucus membrane irritation and upper respiratory congestion. An indoor air quality procedure is best characterized as a cycle of information gathering, hypotheses information and hypotheses testing. It general begins with a walkthrough inspection of the problem area to provide information about the four basic factors the influence indoor air quality: building occupants, HVAC systems, possible pollutant pathways and possible containment sources.

Indoor Air Facts No. 4, Sick Building Syndrome.
United States Environmental Protection Agency, February 1991.