If you’re developing a close relationship with your tissue box or experiencing headaches, eye irritation, difficulty breathing or concentrating, nausea or dizziness while in your office or residential building, then you might be suffering from Sick Building Syndrome or SBS.

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick Building Syndrome is defined as “situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone or may be widespread throughout the building” (MecidineNet).

When a building isn’t maintained or if there are flaws in the original construction design that aren’t properly treated, problems with indoor air quality arise, resulting in long-term IAQ (indoor air quality) issues as well as complaints from tenants. According to a 1984 WHO (World Health Organization) Committee report, a suggested “30% of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to IAQ.

Interestingly enough, SBS can be diagnosed by how rapidly SBS symptoms disappear providing a direct correlation with the building contaminants. Another indication of SBS as the source of acute health issues are from multiple co-workers or co-tenants experiencing same problems or having those issues go away over the weekend.

Causes of Sick Building Syndrome

  1. Outdoor and Indoor Chemical Contaminants: like motor vehicle exhaust, plumbing vents, building exhaust pollutants, and VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds from upholstery, carpeting, copy machines, etc):
  2. Biological Contaminants: These include molds or bacteria that have been caught in humidifies or drainpipes or water that has been collecting (i.e: from tiles, carpets, insulation).
  3. Inadequate Ventilation and Poor Lighting: If there is a very high number of occupants in the building airborne diseases will be spread and with AC systems, there is a higher regeneration of bacteria that also a or pathogens spreading more rapidly.
  4. Electromagnetic Radiation: from microwaves, TVs, and computers.
  5. Psychological Factors: “Excessive work stress or dissatisfaction, poor interpersonal relationships, and poor communication are often seen to be associated with SBS” (Joshi). Not everyone will experience the same results, however, stress is more closely associated with people who are affected by SBS.

Here’s what OSHA has to say about the causes of SBS!

 Combat Your SBS Symptoms For Good!

Improve The Air Ventilation Quality and Distribution

This means that there may have to be an update in the design of HVAC systems or regular maintenance of HVAC systems, or openings windows if outdoor contaminants are not an issue.


LEED Certification provides a framework for optimized “green” building performance from construction to operations that conserves energy and improves tenant health reducing SBS symptoms.

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Joshi, Sumedha M. “The Sick Building Syndrome.” Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 12.2 (2008): 61–64. PMC. Web. 3 Apr. 2018.

“Indoor Air Facts No. 4 (revised) Sick Building Syndrome.” United States Air and Radiation Research and Development Environmental Protection (MD-56) Agency. Web. Feb. 1991.

“Medical Definition of Sick Building Syndrome.” MedicineNet.com. Web. 13 May. 2016. <https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=13142>