Sick Building Syndrome
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is also known as tight building syndrome. Over the years buildings have become more airtight or sealed through advances in architecture. Sick Building Syndrome is a medical condition caused by poor indoor air quality, interior, exterior and biological contamination. The condition causes you to feel generally unwell and uncomfortable when indoors with the symptoms getting worse the longer you are in a particular room or building.
Some mystery surrounds SBS as the symptoms are broad and a specific illness cannot be pinpointed. You may not know what is causing you to feel unwell or why your symptoms linger. A lot of the symptoms can be other illnesses. Even though SBS is not seen as a clinical illness, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged it since 1982.
SBS symptoms are mild and you may only experience one or you could experience multiple symptoms. As you spend most of your time at work, you may find that you suffer more during working hours which increases over the week. Symptoms can negatively affect your productivity, mood and motivation.
It is not known what causes SBS, only what the contributing factors are likely to be. These include a number of environmental, physical and occupational factors which in combination can trigger SBS.
Every interior needs constant fresh ventilation to keep air quality levels high and the risk of SBS low. Situations where air quality is reduced:
The risk of SBS is increased through these groups of factors:
Fumes from exterior heating systems, air-conditioning systems and vehicle emissions can be drawn into your building through:
Found in wet or damp areas such as air-conditioning systems, ducts, plumbing services and humidifiers, these factors breed and spread to increase the risk of SBS.
There is no quick fix to preventing or reducing SBS as each building is different. The basic areas you can check into to find the source of the problem and your SBS symptoms are:
Although not possible in all buildings, natural constant and fresh air ventilation is the best way to reduce the risk of SBS. See more tips and ideas in my article on ventilation in the natural environment section
Mechanical Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Systems
If you must use products that contain chemicals then try to limit the damaging effects:
Sick Building Syndrome - What to do next
A range of specialists can help you if symptoms continue in your workplace (e.g. building service engineers of occupational hygienists). Your company may already have measures in place, check with your manager.
As with all symptoms, please seek medical advice from a doctor.
Alternatively, please contact us for expert advice on Sick Building Syndrome, interior air quality and how to improve your own health and wellbeing through redesign and refurbishment of your home or workplace.