Sick Building Syndrome

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4 minutes

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) occurs when building occupants experience health and comfort effects while spending time in a building. Complaints can occur in a specific room, zone or the entire building.

Problems often arise when a building is operated or maintained in a way that is inconsistent with its original design or prescribed operating procedures. Sometimes indoor air problems are a result of occupant activity, equipment outgassing, or poor building design.

Why is Sick Building Syndrome Important?

Sick Building Syndrome is becoming a major occupational hazard. On the one hand, this condition increases absenteeism and, on the other hand, it decreases the productivity of employees. This has a huge impact on the economic aspect of a company.In addition to impacting business, SBS also negatively impacts student concentration and performance.

Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome

Residents of buildings complain of symptoms related to acute discomfort. These symptoms include headache, eye, nose and throat irritation, dry cough, dry or itchy skin, dizziness and nausea, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and sensitivity to odors.Certain symptoms tend to increase in severity with the time people spend in the building. When people are not in the building anymore, the complaints often even disappear..

Causes of Sick Building Syndrome

While specific causes of SBS remain unknown, the following are listed as contributing factors to SBS. These elements can be a combination of or in addition to other complaints, such as insufficient temperature, humidity or lighting.

  • Chemical contaminants from outdoor sources

Outdoor air entering a building can be a source of indoor pollution. Contaminants from motor vehicle exhaust, plumbing grates and exhaust fumes from buildings (bathrooms and kitchens) can enter the building through poorly placed vents, windows and other openings. Combustion byproducts can also enter a building from a nearby garage.

  • Chemical contaminants from indoor sources

Most indoor air pollution comes from sources within the building itself. For example, glue, upholstery, carpeting, photocopiers, manufactured wood products, cleaning agents and pesticides can repel volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde. Some VOCs at high concentrations can cause chronic and acute negative health effects, including some known as carcinogens. Low to moderate levels of multiple VOCs can also cause acute reactions in some individuals. Environmental tobacco smoke and combustion products from stoves, fireplaces, and unventilated space heaters can all cause chemical contaminants in the air.

  • Biological contaminants

Contaminants like pollen, bacteria, viruses and fungi can breed in standing water that has accumulated in humidifiers, drain pans and ducts, or where water has collected on ceiling tiles, insulation or carpet. Biological contaminants can cause fever, chills, cough, chest tightness, muscle aches and allergic reactions.


3 solutions for Sick Building Syndrome

A solution to SBS problems usually involves a combination of the three following measures:

1. Ventilation rate and air distribution

Increasing ventilation rates and air distribution is often a cost-effective means of reducing indoor pollution levels. Heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems must, as a minimum, be designed to meet the ventilation standards in local building codes. Ensure that the system is regularly operated and maintained to achieve design ventilation rates. If there are strong sources of pollutants, the air may need to be vented directly outside. This method is especially recommended to remove pollutants that accumulate in specific areas such as toilets, copy rooms and printing facilities.

2. Source of pollutants

Remove or modify the source of pollutants. This is the most effective approach to solving the known source of the problem, if this solution is feasible. Ways to do this include regularly maintaining HVAC systems, replacing water-stained ceiling tiles and carpets, banning smoking or providing a separate ventilated area, venting emissions from polluting sources, using and storing paints/solvents/pesticides/adhesives in closed containers in well-ventilated areas, only use polluting sources during periods of low or no occupancy and leave sufficient time between building materials in new or renovated areas of polluting gases before using the home.

3. Education and communication

Education and communication are important parts of any air quality management program. When everyone associated with the building, from residents to maintenance, fully understands the issues and communicates with each other, they can work together more effectively to prevent and resolve issues.

Key take aways

Now that you know what Sick Building Syndrome is, its symptoms and possible causes, you can easily create a healthier indoor climate.

Students benefit a better concentration leading to better results. There will be less absenteeism in the workplace, which has a positive influence on the economic results of the company.