Signs and Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome
According to WebMD, Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) affects millions of people every year. However, because of the nature of the condition, it can be difficult to establish that a particular health issue is the result of Sick Building Syndrome. Instead, most often a structure is found to have SBS based upon looking at the type and frequency of symptoms displayed by the works inside of the building as well as an inspection of the HVAC system and air circulation system.
Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome in People
Sick Building Syndrome encompasses a variety of different air contaminants. People’s reactions to different types of pollutants will vary considerably. There is no one single symptom that signifies that a worker’s health problems are related to Sick Building Syndrome.
Instead, it is important to look at the range of symptoms that are being experienced by many different people. Usually these symptoms will be clustered together in smaller zones of the building. However, they can also be widespread throughout the building.
People who have suffered health related complications from SBS report symptoms such as:
- Eye irritation
- Nose and throat irritation
- Dry cough
- Itchy skin
- Difficulty maintaining concentration
- Extra sensitivity to odors
- Cold or flu-like symptoms
- Increased incidents of asthma attacks
- Chest pain
- Nose bleeds
Some people will only have one or two of these symptoms, while others will report having many, or even all, of these symptoms at different times. Typically people cannot explain where these symptoms are coming from and they do not seem to be associated with any other health changes.
What to Look For With Sick Building Syndrome
When looking for signs of Sick Building Syndrome, it is important to look for trends in the health of the people who work in the building as well as other known risk factors.
Some signs to be aware of include:
- Clustered spikes in absenteeism in certain areas of the building
- Multiple reports of people experiencing strange symptoms while at work
- Reports that people feel relief from their symptoms when they are away from the building and that the symptoms return when they enter the building
- Buildings that have closed, energy efficient HVAC systems
- Buildings with a poor history of HVAC system maintenance
- Buildings originally built in the 1970s and 1980s
The presence of even one of the signs is enough to warrant further investigation and inspection of a building. The more of these signs that are present, the more likely it is that a structure is susceptible to Sick Building Syndrome.
Physical Manifestations of Sick Building Syndrome in the Structure
A thorough investigation of a building can also turn up strong indications of Sick Building Syndrome. Some examples of physical issues with a building systems or structure that make Sick Building Syndrome likely include:
- Mold in ducts, air filters, or HVAC units
- Presence of high levels of radon
- Old carpet and paint throughout the building
- Older model HVAC units
- Presence of high levels of bacteria, pollen, and allergens in random air samples
Prevention of Sick Building Syndrome
The root cause of Sick Building Syndrome is poor air quality. The best way to improve air quality is to make sure fresh air from the outside is regularly circulated through the HVAC system and through the entire building.
Close air systems become breeding grounds for pathogens that cause the physical symptoms associated with Sick Building Syndrome.
Cutting edge technology is now available to bring in fresh, clean air from the outside and regularly circulate it through the building without compromising energy efficiency. This improves air quality and makes it much harder for organisms like mold, bacteria, and viruses to grow and flourish.
Until more buildings begin using HVAC units that use clean, outside air as part of the regular airflow, Sick building Syndrome will continue to be a major issue for workers, companies, and property owners.