The sick building syndrome (SBS) is used to describe a situation in which the occupants of a building experience acute health- or comfort-related effects that seem to be linked directly to the time spent in the building. No specific illness or cause can be identified. The complainants may be localized in a particular room or zone or may be widespread throughout the building. Building-related illness include asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, inhalation fever, rhinosinusitis, and infection.
The health conditions associated with buildings are commonly classified as:
1. SBS or Sick Building Syndrome.
2. Building-related Illness, when the symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.
Signs and symptoms of the sick building syndrome include:
Headache, dizziness, nausea, eye, nose or throat irritation, dry cough, dry or itching skin, difficulty in concentration, fatigue, sensitivity to odors, hoarseness of voice, allergies, cold, flu-like symptoms, and increased incidence of asthma attacks.
The cause of the symptoms is not known. It reduces work efficiency and increases absenteeism. Most of the complainants report relief soon after leaving the building, although lingering effects of neurotoxins can occur.
Signs and symptoms of the building-related illness include:
Cough, chest pain, shortness of breath on mild exertion, edema, and palpitations.
Since the late 1970s, consultants and public health agencies at the local, state, and federal levels have been barraged with requests for investigative assistance to determine the origins of and solutions to complaints of office workers regarding their indoor environments. The most frequent constellation of building-associated complaints is called sick building syndrome. It consists of mucous membrane irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; headache; unusual tiredness or fatigue; and, less frequently, dry or itchy skin. The hallmark of these symptoms is their tight temporal association with building occupancy and their rapid resolution, within minutes to hours, when affected office workers leave implicated buildings. Sick building syndrome is distinguished from more medically serious building-related illness by its subjective nature, reversibility, and high prevalence within implicated buildings and across the nonindustrial building stock in North America and Europe. Building-related illnesses include asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, inhalation fever, rhinosinusitis, and infection. In contrast to sick building syndrome, these building-related illnesses are less common and may result in substantial medical morbidity. Building related asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and rhinosinusitis are usually accompanied by sick building syndrome symptoms among coworkers. Whether similar etiologies contribute to sick building syndrome and these building-related illnesses is still speculative.