You have probably experienced a ‘sick building’ yourself. You may not feel well in a room or building, such as irritated eyes or nose. Without knowing exactly where this feeling comes from. Or you experience that you suddenly feel better when you leave that room or building. The term “sick building syndrome” (SBS) is first used in the 1970s. It describes a situation in which reported symptoms among a population of building occupants can be temporally associated with their presence in that building. Typically, though not always, the structure is an office building.
Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrom (SBS)
In short: more co-workers experience the same complaints when they are in the building or in the same parts of a building. Most of the times, complaints disappear or lessen when people leave those buildings or parts.
Symptoms of a Sick Building Syndrom can include:
- eye, nose and throat irritation (irritation of mucous membranes)
- lethargy or fatigue
- headache, dizziness, nausea
- inability to concentrate
- sensitivity to odors
- general malaise-complaints
Indication that the complaints are caused by Sick Building Syndrome are:
- Are problems temporally related to time spent in a particular building or part of a building?
- Do symptoms resolve when the individual is not in the building?
- Do symptoms recur seasonally (heating, cooling)?
- Have co-workers, peers noted similar complaints?
Difference between Sick Building Syndrome and ‘building related illness’
It is important to distinguish the ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ from building related illness. Building related illness means that symptoms of illness can be directly related to specific airborne building contaminants. Examples are Legionnaire’s Disease or hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
The EPA distinguishes 4 causes of or contributing factors for sick building syndrome (Indoor Air Facts No. 4 (revised) Sick Building Syndrome):
- Inadequate ventilation
- Chemical contaminants from indoor sources
- Chemical contaminants from outdoor sources
- Biological contaminants
Due to the fact that outdoor air ventilation is inadequate to maintain the health and comfort of the people inside the people. Another reason for inadequate ventilation may occur if heating, ventilation and air condition (HVAC) systems do not effectively distribute air to people inside the building
Chemical contaminants from indoor sources
Most of the indoor pollution comes from sources inside the building. For example: adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood product, copy machines, pesticides and cleaning products may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde. Tobacco smoke may also be a source, if smoking is still allowed inside the building. Another source may be combustion products, due to unvented gas and kerosene heaters, gas stoves, woodstoves and fireplace
Chemical contaminants from outdoor sources
For example, motor vehicle exhausts which enters the building
Examples are bacteria, molds, pollen, viruses and animal droppings
It’s possible that the underlying causes of the above-mentioned factors are:
- Poor ventilation, due to poor design, maintenance or operation. The ventilation itself can be a source of irritants. Besides, interior redesign such as rearrangement of offices may cause inefficient functioning of the systems.
- These elements may act in combination. Where some pollutants themselves are at a very low level, the way they react on each other may cause health effects
- Elements may supplement other complaints such as inadequate temperature, humidity, or lighting. High humidity may contribute to biological pollutant problems. On the other side, levels below 20 or 30 percent may heighten the effects of mucosal irritants and may be irritating itself
- Other factors may also play a role, such as stress, noise, insufficient light.
Solutions like the Airmex can help you to create a safe and healthy environment for work, meeting and living. It monitors your air quality and alarms you when the air quality has dropped below acceptable levels