What Building Owners Need To Know About Sick Building Syndrome

What Building Owners Need To Know About Sick Building SyndromeSick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a term used to define acute health issues, illnesses or discomfort related to spending time in a building. In other words, if someone continually experiences illness, headaches, allergies or other health ailments when they spend time in a certain building, it’s easy to say the building is making the person ill.

Who Is Most Likely To Experience SBS?

Secretarial and clerical workers are more likely to be impacted by SBS, as managers tend to have better workplace conditions. Women are more likely than men to experience symptoms; this is believed to be because women are more likely to work in secretarial positions. Symptoms are more prevalent in air-conditioned buildings than in naturally ventilated buildings. They are also more common in public sector buildings as opposed to private sector buildings.

A World Health Organization (WHO) report dating back to 1984 stated that as much as 30% of new and freshly remodeled buildings may be impacted by poor indoor air quality. In 1986, the WHO coined the term “Sick Building Syndrome.”

What Causes Sick Building Syndrome?

The causes include faulty heating, AC, ventilation, outgassing of certain building materials, volatile organic compounds, improper ventilation of ozone (produced by some office machinery), certain industrial chemicals and improper cleaning of things like mold. In other words, there are a lot of different things that can lead to sick building syndrome.

Workplace stress has been identified as yet another contributor to increased prevalence of sick building syndrome. Yet, more commonly the presence of chemical contaminants, volatile organic compounds and biological contaminants, such as molds, bacteria, pollen and viruses, can all cause SBS.

Symptoms Of Sick Building Syndrome




-Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat

-Dry cough

-Itchy, irritated or dry skin

-Difficulty concentrating

-Cold and flu-like symptoms

-Personality changes

The WHO has identified a number of common symptoms related to sick building syndrome. Contaminates in the building influence what symptoms people are experiencing. For instance, extrinsic allergic alveolitis has been found to impact people living or working in buildings with fungi and bacteria lurking in moist air. The most common symptoms associated with this type of exposure include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and fever.

When workers are exposed to bioaerosols, symptoms range to include: irritation of the nose, eyes and throat, skin irritation, nonspecific hypersensitivity reactions, infectious diseases and odor and taste sensations as well other generalized health problems.

The WHO has created broad categories of symptoms including:

Mucous membrane irritation (issues impacting the nose, eyes and throat)

Neurotoxic effects (headaches, irritability and fatigue)

Asthma (this includes asthma-like symptoms such as wheezing and a tightness in the chest)

Dry and/or irritated skin and gastrointestinal issues

*Potential side effects and symptoms of SBS are not limited to this list. 

Common Contributors To Sick Building Syndrome

-Chemical contaminants: These can arise from both indoor and outdoor sources.

-Biological contaminants: These include pollen, bacteria, fungus, molds and viruses.

-Inadequate ventilation: A lack of fresh air and air flow will allow all kinds of chemical, biological and radiation to build up in the air.

-Electromagnetic radiation: The electromagnetic radiation released by microwaves, televisions, computers, etc. ionize the air. 

-Psychological factors: Too much stress in the workplace.

-Poor or too much artificial lighting

Unintended Consequences Of Sick Building Syndrome

If you or your staff is experiencing illness due to indoor air quality and overall cleanliness of the workplace it can cause serious issues. As a result your business could face decreased profits and productivity due to…

-Employees having to take more sick days because they are not feeling well, especially when they are in the office.

-Less productive employees—really, who does their best work while suffering from a stomachache, headache, etc.?

-Higher turnover rates as employees are forced to find new jobs because of health issues related to the workplace.

As a business owner it’s important to do everything in your power to keep your workplace as healthy as possible for the people that come to work there every day. Which brings us to…

How To Prevent Sick Building Syndrome

-Hire a regular cleaning service.

-Keep toxin-absorbing plants around the office.

-Have the exterior of the building, including the roof, windows, etc., cleaned regularly to remove build up of algae and mold.

-Regularly clean carpets and other floors and replace as needed, especially if there are any signs of water damage.

-Frequently vacuum using a HEPA filter vacuum that’ll collect as much as 99.97% of particles.

Tidy Team will take care of all of the above and more! We offer affordable flexible cleaning plans that’ll help ensure your workplace is as healthy as possible.

Other ways to prevent sick building syndrome include…

-Install HVAC Air Cleaning systems that remove VOC’s and other odors from your system’s conditioned air.

-Replace any water-stained ceiling tiles, walls, etc.

-Go above and beyond the minimum guidelines when it comes to ventilation rates.

-Rely on natural lighting as much as possible.

-Only use paints, solvents, pesticides and adhesives during periods of non-occupancy and in well-ventilated areas.