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Sick Building Syndrome- A Detailed Overview


Task: What is Sick Building Syndrome, who does it affect and how can the syndromes probability or presence be predicted and diagnose?


In this bestowed article on sick building syndrome, a detailed analysis is being done regarding the SBS. A sample size of 50 patients has been selected who were suspected to be suffering from the case of the Sick Building Department. Apart from discussing the symptoms and issues raised because of the Sick Building Syndrome, a detailed analysis regarding the factors which have the potential to generate this condition is done. The whole developmental phase of Sick Building syndrome is being mentioned in this report so that a good awareness about could be developed among the readers. We have tried to enlarge the scope of this report and hence have developed a format that could be utilized to predict and diagnose the probability or presence of Sick Building Syndrome. The convention to prevent the occurrence of the sick building syndrome has been recommended in the concluding section of this report.

As per the research conducted by our researchers, it has been observed that around 92.36 % of the aggregate time in a human's life span is being spent in a building. Although if a person is out for his occupation, he would be working in an office or a factory building. In most of the cases, to make the working environment viable and feasible, apparatus like cooling system, and exhaust is provided. In the case, the cooling system is provided, the whole building is being sealed even by closing the windows. A working surrounding is being created in the building by using a certain gradient of paint or wallpaper. The environment in the workplace also consists of the instruments of production through which the worker has to interact most of his time. As a part of keeping the internal surroundings of the organization neat and hygienic different toilet and chemical products are used by the company. Though it has been observed in most of the institutes that the implementation of neon bulbs in the working place has resulted in overall poor lighting and visibility. These drawbacks would always bring down the quality of the environment and has the potential to bring down the efficiency of the workers. These issues are not limited to the official environment and hence also may impose a detrimental impact on the household.

The term Sick Building Syndrome signifies the health of a person when he is contained in the internal environment of a building. If the environment in the interior is posing a negative impact on the person, then the symptoms because of t could be classified under the sick building syndrome. All the symptoms which may no have any evident portrayal of illness though could cause a sense of discomfort or intolerance could be exclusively classified under the single classification of Sick Building Syndrome. If a person is hearing the term Sick Building Syndrome for the first time, he may encounter a lot of confusion regarding it. The term itself may give the impression that it pertains to some defect with the building. We have even observed that some even have perceived that this is a disease like an outlook and could be transmitted from one building to another. Since the sick building issue is now a global issue among the corporate environment, its significance and scope are very high and thus the awareness regarding it is very imminent to conduct. The normal blunder of perceiving it as some sort of contagious disease should be eliminated among the popular mass. The topic of sick building syndrome is still in an immature stage and it still lacks relevant researches. The researchers have observed that the sick building syndrome even sustains for a while in the person who leaves the affected or problematic building.

As per the research conducted by the scholars, it has been observed that the overall number of symptoms regarding sick building syndrome had exceeded the number of 50. The major reason behind the frivolous attitude of the tenants or the responsible people towards the issue of sickle building syndrome is because the affected raise the issues which are unrelated to each other. The inability of the affected workers or people to present the issues in a correlated and systematic manner makes it very hard to address the serious issue of sick building syndrome. The international bodies like World Health Organization have released an authentic list of symptoms which like signs like fatigue, headaches, nervousness, respiratory difficulties and infections, nausea, heavy perspiration, lethargy, lack in concentration towards work, coughing, light dizziness, depression, dyspnoea, and hoarseness, infection to the vital organs like eyes nose and larynx, presence of high mucous on the skin, hypersensitivity of the skin, itching, erythema, allergic rhinitis, and rheum, etc.

The above-mentioned symptoms most often get unnoticed since they would be very mild in manner. The institutes should understand that these symptoms would conclusively affect the overall productivity of the company. It should also be noted that sick building syndrome could also affect the person in his personal life.

The topic of sick building syndrome should be taken seriously by the company management if any of the above-mentioned symptoms are being shown by the workers. It should especially be observed that whether the workers stop to display the symptoms after leaving the building. If that is the case, the workers surely have been suffering from sick building syndrome. Though it should not be taken as a hard and fast rule since the disappearance of the symptoms would truly differ from person to person. These confusions remain in the case of sick building syndrome since there is very little research done in the same area by the scholars. The only way to provide high priority to this condition by focusing on oversensitive workers.

Let us discuss the factors which would lead to the formation of sick building syndrome symptoms. Still to the date, there is no specific or solid reason found which could cause the condition of sick building syndrome. Only a few reasons have been devised out which could pose a probability of sick building syndrome. Many of the mentioned factors cause an aggravated stage of sick building syndrome in the presence of other subsidiary factors. Below is provided a list of major factors that would lead to the existence of sick building syndrome.

  • Lack of any ventilation or the flow of air.
  • Chemical pollution because of the material used in painting.
  • The increasing level of temperature because of the lack of air circulation.
  • Pollutants emitted by the air-conditioning system.
  • High humidity level.
  • Less visibility because of poor lightning.
  • Very poor ergonomics of the office room.

Below are provided some of the factors which are also been observed to increase the instance of sick building syndrome. These are major of the biological nature: -

  • The emergence of dirty black molds because of the high level of humidity.
  • Presence of very harmful fungus, bacteria, and viruses in the atmosphere of the working environment. These could be majorly observed in areas like water pipes, air condition ventilators, etc.
  • The human presence would accelerate the foul smell and the generation of bacteria. This should be eliminated by proper cleaning measures.
  • The small biological particles like pollen would also create irritation and allergy among the workers.

The optimum and normal measure of carbon dioxide in the human environment should be around 0.03%. Though in the high presence of a human in the compacted area would raise the level of carbon dioxide to an uncomfortable level of 5 %. Hence the working environment should be properly ventilated. The increase in the level of carbon dioxide could not be controlled without the effective implementation of the ventilation system. It has been observed that the concrete buildings get heated easily and thus emits a lot of carbon dioxide in the day time.

It is by the combustion process that carbon dioxide is created in the atmosphere. The emission by industries and vehicles also majorly contribute to the emission of carbon dioxide. In the working place, the pieces of machinery and the radiators could also contribute to the emission of carbon dioxide. If the flow of oxygen would get reduced to the brain of the human being, he would feel fatigued and dizziness. In extreme cases, the workers may also vomit, faint or even die. Another malicious gas that gets created because of partial combustion is carbon monoxide which could much more disaster to the human body. The carbon monoxide is also emitted majorly from the industries and the vehicles. The carbon monoxide is much more detrimental than that of the carbon dioxide since it directly affects the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. This gas could directly create a level of cardiac problems in the workers.

The compound of nitrogen and its compound gets also emitted from machinery and partial combustion of fuel. This gas could also make external irritation to the human being. The eyes get irritated because of it and also cause some respiratory diseases.

The combustion of fuel and chemical products would lead to the emission of the oxides of the sulfur. The heat in the electronic system also contributes majorly to emit the sulfur oxide gases. The continuous exposure to the oxides of sulfur would create carcinogenesis, permanent damage to the lungs, and bronchitis.

Another compound that may cause a hindrance to work in the office environment is formaldehyde. This compound is being used in many of the compounds and instruments like furniture in the office, ceiling plates, carpet glue, insecticides and pesticides, plastic products, plywood, etc. The presence of formaldehyde contributes majorly to the rise in temperature of the surrounding. The presence of formaldehyde could only be perceived by the acidic smell since it is colorless. If the level of the formaldehyde surpasses the level of 2 ppm, evident symptoms like irritation and itching in the eye could be observed. It could also cause some minor irritations in the larynx and nasal cavity. If the presence of formaldehyde gets higher to the level of 5 ppm it would cause some serious issues like skin rashes and temporary memory loss. The concentration up to 20 ppm would cause serious physical damages to the eyes and respiratory tract.

Every person knows that the ozone is found naturally in the environment through many instruments that are majorly used in the office have the potential to emit ozone. The major instruments which have the potential to emit ozone are photocopying machines and other cleansing instruments which work on the ideology of electrostatic energy. The continuous exposure to the ozone could cause headaches and even mutation in the genes of humans. A lot of genetic abnormalities have been observed in the people who were continuously exposed to oxygen gas. If the person is exposed to the concentrated medium of ozone for a prolonged period, they would end up with the damaged respiratory system.

Most of our petroleum fuels are hydrocarbons, there are also some daily use products which could be classified under the category of hydrocarbons. It is being highly used in synthetically coloring various materials, floor cleaners, etc. These hydrocarbons also cause some serious damage to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. It has also been observed by scientists that exposure to formaldehyde also causes permanent damage to the central nervous system of humans, kidneys and even could be categorized as a carcinogenic substance.

The other chemical compound which may affect humans biologically in an official environment is benzene. They are majorly being observed in floor cleaners, plastics, and tobacco products. The presence of benzene could cause external damage to the skin and even turn out to be carcinogenic and detrimental to the central nervous system.

The presence of ammonia could also prove to be a major cause for sick building syndrome and is commonly used in products like printer inks and nicotine smoke. Major organs which could get irritated are respiratory system and eyes.

Since in the official environment the use of heavy metals is limited, there is very little chance that it would cause any sort of hindrance to the worker's performance. Hence, it's a contribution to the sick building syndrome is perceived to be very minimal. Though it has been observed by the researches that the hindrance or uneasiness because of this factor has been much more evident when working or dwelling in older houses. The major components of the painting substance like mercury and lead have the potential to irritate the human body to a considerable level. Hence this factor should be taken care of while selecting a building for office or industry.

The use of mantle is not much evident era, though the buildings which were made in the latter decades of the 20th century have implied it on a wide basis. The mantle has been observed to be very detrimental to human health. The substance was heavily used by the builders as insulating material. Since the use of mantle has proved to be a very carcinogenic and major factor for fibrosis in the lungs, it’s use is heavily reduced in the construction process.

The chemicals which are used to disinfect the whole building like pesticide or insecticide the whole building would cause heavy risk to the skin, nervous system, eyes, respiratory system, etc. If the building air circulation because of the lack of proper ventilation, the presence of these harmful chemical substances would turn out very harmful for the person residing in the building. The turpentine and other chemicals that are coated on furniture to preserve it emit an odor and other harmful chemicals that could affect the health of the workers.

It is quite possible that the soil in some places would possess some radioactive characteristics. If the radioactivity happens because of the degradation of the uranium, then the by-product which gets produced at a mass basis would be radon. It is quite observed that the stones used for the construction of buildings consist of radon deposits although they may vary in its concentration. The continuous exposure of the person with radon may cause cancer or even permanent damage to the reproductive system.

The electromagnetic radiations emitted from the display of the computer would come under the major factors which may induce the existence of sick building syndrome. The low-frequency radiations have the potential to cause some irritations like respiratory diseases, sire eyes, headaches, decreased rate of blood circulation, biological impact on developing an embryo or fetus, etc. This factor would majorly affect the people who come under the division of pregnant women. Hence they are strongly recommended to keep away from the computer. The impacts would be much higher in the people who work continuously on the computer. The screen radiation of the computer is not limited to a single direction and affects all things in its proximity.

The presence of stress could also be taken as a major factor contributing to the existence of a sick building theorem. If the working environment consists of a lot of hindrances and in that case, it is quite common that the worker would experience considerable stress. The main reason behind the cause of building up stress is because of the inability to control the surrounding conditions. Environmental factors like the flow of oxygen, level of humidity, increase in temperature, high noise, poor lightings, etc. are not under the control of workers and hence would contribute to the rise of sick building syndrome. This would conclusively lead to the rise of sick building syndrome and hence eventually affect the performance of the institute as a whole.

From the above-provided content, it could be observed by the reader that the major factor that would affect the prevalence of the sick building syndrome would be the current temperature and flow of oxygen while the person is inside the building. The workers require an amiable environment which should be hygienic, with no bad odor, lack of humidity, etc. The most important factor which should be controlled inside a building that could help the employees more in the assigned work is the effective control of ventilation, humidity and the interior temperature. The most effective way to make the entrant into the building comfortable is by controlling the above-mentioned three factors. If the working class predominantly consists of women rather than men, the temperature should be kept a bit higher, since ladies found it more comfortable in a warm environment. The environment of the office building should be adjusted as per the guidelines provided. These are the standard measures that are recommended by the American Union of Civil Engineers and are followed by various corporal institutes all over the world.

  • The first parameter to be followed under this guideline is to adjust the room temperature between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius. The apt humidity to be maintained in the office atmosphere is to be in between 40to 69 percent. If the heat is coming from the floor rather then the ceiling, the humidity should be between 50 to 60 percent. Both the lack of humidity and excess in humidity would irritate the worker. If the humidity is higher than a certain level, the person would not be able to respirate in an easy way and if the humidity is very low then the whole nasal tract would get dry. The layer of mucous would get drier if the humidity is very less in the official environment.
  • The ventilation should be provided with the pressure of 8 psi for each person individual present in the building. If the working class is comprised majorly of the smokers the ventilation should be overpowered to 25 psi.
  • The most adequate level of the speed of air should be 0.2 to 0.3 m/s. The wind with higher speed would provide the feeling of ventilation in the room.
  • If the sound level inside the official environment would be limited under the level of 46 dB, it would be considered a very optimum environment. Although if the sound is very low, its continuous emission could cause a lot of irritation in the person.
  • The optimum lighting in a working place would be around 700 lux. The use of fluorescent lamps should be strictly avoided in the working place.

How to diagnose the presence of sick building syndrome and its prevention
If the workers in a building have displayed any symptoms of sick building syndrome, he should be provided with imminent focus by the higher officials and tenants. The proper analysis of the reasons behind the emergence of the syndrome should be analyzed. Though there has been sone a lot of useless effort in the field of sick building syndrome the proven measure for alleviating it still needed to be devised out. Thus, it is very evident that a more systematic approach should be taken to alleviate the serious problem of sick building syndrome. To control the negative side of the sick building syndrome the officials should the below-given guidelines.

  • Make aware the workers regarding the symptoms of sick building syndrome and thereby ask them to report to the higher officials if any of the symptoms are observed.
  • Try to note down the measures which were useful in countering the displayed symptoms.
  • The continuous feedback should be taken from the employees and the management team should be asked to conduct a survey by using a standard questionnaire format.
  • The counterproductive measure should be conducted to meticulous analysis and it should be studied what has improved the situation.
  • The technicians should be engaged to optically inspect the concerned building.
  • All the information regarding the residing building taken into consideration like its layout, area, temperature, ventilation, etc.

The officials should take the relevant actions by taking into account both the personalities of the workers and the features of the building. As mentioned earlier in this report, there is no strict parameter that would prove the existence of sick building syndrome. Most of the causes of the sick building syndrome come under the safety limits and thus are very easy to be ignored. It is often misjudged by the responsible bodies and could cause an enormous impact if kept unnoticed would create permanent and evident damage. The higher officials should conduct continuous surveillance to detect the symptoms of sick building syndrome. Just conducting the optical surveillance of the relevant building would not be good enough to trace down the symptoms of sick building syndrome. The officials should conduct frequent inspection and analysis to trace out the sick building syndrome. The whole process and analysis of the relevant symptoms consume a lot of time and thus a lot of effort should be invested by them.

In this report on sick building syndrome, we have considered both the physical and mental aspects of human health with respect to the productivity of the institute working in the same building. Though it is an internal matter of an organization, it is the major liability of the government to make it ensure that all workers are being employed at a convenient working environment. If ignored it for a long, time the overall health and the aggregate economy of the nation would plunge to a very unrecoverable level. Though the major responsibility lies with the management of the respective institute holds the highest responsibility regarding the employees. The company should make sure that the workers are not getting symptoms of sick building syndrome from the working place.

It have been observed that, most of the corporate institutes shy away from solving the problem, since the symptoms regarding the sick building syndrome requires a lot of effort and money to be invested. Because of the high expenditure and time-consuming nature, companies try whether the employees would adjust with the environment. Though it is very effective for the short-term period, the attitude would cause lot of damage in the long term if the symptoms are ignored on a regular basis. A proper awareness program should be conducted to both the management team and the employees, so that the symptoms of the sick building syndrome could be detected in the earlier stage and hence avoid the sudden impact on the company funds. Only if the workers are aware of their rights and the symptoms of the sick building syndrome, an effective contribution could be expected from their behalf. The major restrictions that avoiding the use of mantle while constructing a building, keeping the laptop away from the pregnant women, sustaining the level of ventilation to a certain level, etc. should be taken care of and kept under observation by both the officials and the workers. If these facilities are not ensured by the company managers, then the workers have all the right to object and raise voice against it. The head of the organization should have the knowledge that the overall expense of alleviating the symptoms f the sick building syndrome is much lesser if it is compared with respect to the loss incurred due to lack in performance caused by the same.


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