Sick Building Syndrome
What is Sick Building Syndrome?

The term sick building syndrome refers to a heterogeneous group of symptoms related to exposure in primarily mechanically ventilated buildings. The symptoms associated with Sick Building Syndrome are:
  • Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat – pain, sensation of dryness, stinging, hoarseness, voice problems
  • Skin irritation – dry skin, pain, smarting, redness
  • Neurologic or general health symptoms – headache, sluggishness, mental fatigue, reduced memory, unable to concentrate, dizziness, tiredness, nausea and vomiting
  • Nonspecific hypersensitivity reactions – runny nose, eyes, asthma-like symptoms.

Etiology of Sick Building Syndrome

The cause of symptoms is not known because conventional air monitoring does not show individual pollutants to be at unsafe levels. As the above symptoms usually disappear when the individual leaves the building, they are likely to be causally related.

Specific agent(s) responsible for the symptoms have not been identified. The following building-related factors are associated with sick building syndrome:
  • High and low relative humidity
  • Very low ventilation rates
  • Fungi and bacteria
  • Second hand smoke, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide
Prevalence of Sick Building Syndrome

Studies of randomly selected office buildings have shown that up to 60% of workers reported at least one work-related symptom and 10-25% reported such symptoms occurring twice weekly or more. Young people, particularly women and allergic subjects are affected. In 1998, the loss of productivity from sick building syndrome was estimated to be $180 billion.

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