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Sick Building Syndrome & Building Related Illness

Discomfort due to sick buildings

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is an instance where the occupants of a particular building suffer from health issues that do not have any cause or illness to it but are linked to the time spent in the building.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sick building syndrome is strongly suspected when the following circumstances are present:

  • Symptoms are temporally related to time spent in a particular building or part of a building
  • Symptoms resolve when the individual is not in the building
  • Symptoms recur seasonally (heating, cooling)
  • Co-workers, peers have noted similar complaints

Frequently, problems result whenSick Buildings in News a building is operated or maintained in a manner that is inconsistent with its original design or prescribed operating procedures. Sometimes indoor air problems are a result of poor building design or occupant activities.  In most cases, sick building syndrome occurs in office buildings, although it may also occur in other commercial buildings such as schools and apartment buildings.

Building Related Illness (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants. Examples of building-related illnesses are Legionnaires’ disease and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Indicators of BRI include:

  • Building occupants complain of symptoms such as cough; chest tightness; fever, chills; and muscle aches
  • The symptoms can be clinically defined and have clearly identifiable causes.
  • Complainants may require prolonged recovery times after leaving the building.

Symptoms of SBS range from specific symptoms such as headache, itchy eyes, skin rashes, and nasal allergy symptoms, dry cough, rashes, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, aches and pains, difficulty in concentrating and sensitivity to odors.

SBS reduces worker productivity and may also increase absenteeism.

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