Sick building syndrome is the symptom or discomfort one experience when she/he is inside a building for hours. This person has no other sickness and these symptoms disappear if the person leaves this building. The problems may be in one room or zone or in the whole building. This is an environmental illness.

What is the difference between sick building syndrome and building related illness (BRI)?

The persons who have SBS have no known sickness and the symptoms disappear when the person leaves the building. But, building related illness is where the symptoms are diagnosable. The illness is identified and can be sorted directly to certain airborne contaminants. Still there are several buildings where the indoor air quality is very bad.

Which are the symptoms of SBS?

The symptoms of SBS include:

• Sensitivity to odours
• Fatigue
• Dizziness
• Headaches
• Dry skin, itchy skin
• Nausea
• Problems in concentration
• Dry cough
• Irritation of throat, eye or nose

Which are the symptoms of BRI?

The symptoms of BRI include:

• Cough
• Cold
• Fever
• Muscle aches
• Chest tightness

Affected persons need prolonged recovery times after leaving from the building.

Only after knowing the exact condition of the patient, we have to decide whether the symptoms are SBS or BRI related or from other sources like cold or allergies which can be also mistakenly interpreted.

What are the immediate causes of sick building syndrome?

These include:

Inadequate ventilation: It is important to ventilate the rooms to remove chemical contaminants as well as the used air from there, if you keep usually all the doors and windows closed. One window or door completely opened for 10 minutes is normally enough to replace the used air in that room.

In Western countries, if you close the windows and doors there is no possibility of natural exchange, they are air tight because of energy savings in the cold winter. There, many times a day, at least one window should be opened completely for 10 minutes.

The ventilation should be proper and good in air-conditioned rooms and halls.

Solvents and other chemicals contaminant from indoor sources: Many do not know what all chemicals and solvents they have in their buildings. These are from adhesives, carpets, wooden floors, other wood products and cleaning products from all kinds of chemicals and volatile organic compounds. Pesticides against mosquitoes, cockroaches or ants are present. These should be used very cautiously only if the natural products are not helping. Formaldehyde may be present is a strong poison; select other products which are equally good.

Copy machines can produce ozone which is in high concentration harmful to our health.

Any source of smoke in closed rooms must be avoided. Do not smoke in closed rooms, it is applicable to your important guests, if necessary send them out to smoke.

Micro-organisms present: These may be in the air or in the building. The reasons may be very old and dirty filter in the air-conditioners or the fungus present due to lack of aeration.

Good companies do lot against these problems because they know that the staff only produce the profit. At the same time, we should not forget that the occupational laws of a country are there to safeguard the health of the staffs working in such buildings.