Sick Building Syndrome Symptoms

Sick building syndrome symptoms
By | December 19, 2023
5 min read

If you work in the office or study day and night at the library, you should be familiar with the fatigue and headache symptoms, which disappear when changing the environment for the weekends. These have a name – SBS or Sick Building Syndrome. SBS is diagnosed when more than 20% of a building’s occupants complain of discomforting health effects for no apparent reason.

30% of office buildings in the United States could be sick. SBS is also a major problem for schools, libraries, and even hospitals.

What are the SBS symptoms?

Headaches, dizziness, nausea, pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, throat irritation, nose, skin, and eyes, runny nose, allergy-like symptoms, such as sneezing, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, body aches, etc.

Sick Building Syndrome harmful effects?

It reduces work efficiency and increases absenteeism.
SBS Solutions?
Researchers still haven’t identified a single cause for SBS. It’s considered to be a combination of chemical and biological contaminants, along with poor air ventilation.

Causes of SBS include

Inadequate ventilation

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers revised the ventilation standard to provide a minimum of 15 cfm of outdoor air per person (20 cfm/person in office spaces). Up to 60 cfm is required in smoking lounges see ASHRAE Standard 62-1989.

Chemical contaminants from outdoor sources:

Pollutants from motor vehicle exhaust, plumbing vents, and building exhausts can enter the building through poorly located air intake vents and windows.

Biological contaminants

Bacteria, mold, pollen, viruses.

SBS comes from 1970s

Buildings in the 1970s were made more airtight than nowadays, which was beneficial both for the state and building owners, allowing them to reduce costs with annual kWh savings goals.

Sealing up buildings reduced the ventilation rate per person per minute to 5 cubic feet. After that, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers reviewed and updated ventilation standards to a minimum of 15 cubic feet per person per minute.

External pollutants such as exhaust fumes and vapors containing carbon monoxide, radon, formaldehyde, and asbestos can enter through poorly located air intakes. Inside, we consume air with particles of volatile organic compounds from adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, copy machines, pesticides, synthetic fragrances, etc.

Some state governments established rules for the compliance of the premises with acceptable levels of gaseous air pollutants; others continue to adhere to the conservative tradition.

Some houseplants might help too. A study out of the University of Cologne in Germany found that certain plants can absorb air pollutants.

Syngonium podophyllum, an indoor plant, was investigated for its capacity to reduce two components of indoor air pollution: VOCs and CO2.

It was found that, with a moderate increase of indoor light intensity, these species remove significant amounts of CO2 from test chambers, removing up to 61% ± 2.2 of 1000 ppmv over a 40-min period.

How to treat sick building syndrome?

Where to start if you work in or own an SBS office? There are many office buildings, and the competition for rental companies is high, so to keep the client’s rent, it is worth monitoring the indoor climate.

The simplest thing is to start by increasing the ventilation speed, removing sources of pollution, and performing air purification. The EPA recommends routine maintenance of the HVAC system.

SBS treatment steps to be taken by employers:

Reduce chemical cleaning products
Vacuum and perform wet cleaning regularly to remove dust
Every three month change air filters (at least)
Regulate the humidity level – 40 to 70 percent recommended
Get a possible fungus test check
Change lights to LED

The founder, CEO, and author of articles for the Green Ductors blog. Dedicated to his work, Dmytro strives to make people more aware of the importance of maintaining the best possible air quality. By treating readers like friends, he communicates even the most complex information in an easy-to-understand way to make your reading experience not only useful but also enjoyable. Check out the articles written by the hand of our founder Dmytro.

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