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Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) Causes and Solutions

13 May 2014

Bethan Stones headshot

Bethan Stones

Group Marketing Manager

Sick Building Syndrome

What Is Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a term used to describe a set of symptoms experienced by workers in a particular environment. It has been recognised as a phenomenon by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since 1982. Extensive studies by the HSE have estimated between 30 and 50% of new or refurbished buildings can cause some form of SBS. In addition, recent Australian research has demonstrated that office printers can be a source of indoor air pollutants that require ‘specialist expertise’ to identify and tackle the cause. There is growing awareness of the importance of indoor air quality and the relationship between ‘comfort’ and higher productivity levels is strengthening.

What Causes Sick Building Syndrome?

Exact causes of sick building syndrome are difficult to define but are likely to involve a combination of physical, environmental and job related factors. Common characteristics are likely to include:

  • High temperature or excessive variations in temperature during the shift
  • Very low or very high humidity levels
  • Low level of user control over ventilation, heating and lighting
  • Chemical pollutants such as ozone (photocopiers and laser printers); volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) from items such as new furniture, carpeting and painted surfaces
  • Dust particles or fibres in the air, including ultra-fine dust particles that maybe emitted in significant quantities from certain printers and photocopiers. These particles are similar in size to cigarette smoke and have the ability to penetrate deep into the lungs.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sick Building Syndrome?

The symptoms of sick building syndrome are wide ranging and vary between people, they usually include:

  • Skin problems – dry, itchy, rashes
  • Respiratory tract irritations – coughing, dry, itchy or sore nose or throat, stuffy or runny nose
  • Eye irritations – dry, itchy, weepy eyes
  • Neurological – headaches, lethargy, irritability, poor concentration.
  • Sick building syndrome symptoms apparently do not cause permanent damage but can have significant impact on those affected and place large costs on the organisation in terms of:
  • Absenteeism and staff turnover
  • Staff efficiency
  • Time and money spent dealing with complaints
  • Staff morale

Benefits of Carrying out Indoor Air Quality Assessments

There can be significant tangible benefits in promptly dealing with complaints about indoor air quality.

They include improving staff morale, efficiency, less time spent dealing with complaints, lower levels of absenteeism, better staff retention, and overall a more motivated and satisfied workforce.

Experts In Sick Building Syndrome and Indoor Air Quality Monitoring

Envirocare can provide a bespoke service based on the symptoms present and will provide a cost effective solution that will have your staff working in a more productive environment as soon as possible.

Envirocare can provide assistance by carrying out independent air quality monitoring within the workplace that includes expert technical advice tailored to the individual needs of clients. These include:

  • Determination of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide levels
  • Measurement of temperature and relative humidity
  • Determination of volatile organic compounds and other pollutants
  • Lighting surveys
  • Determination of ozone levels.
  • Measuring of Bioaerosol levels within the working environment for microbiological contamination.
  • Determination of dust levels, total and ultra-fine, and microscopic analysis to identify major constituents
  • Measurement of air flow to determine ventilation levels, as good ventilation is the key to extracting indoor air pollutants.

Call us on 01274 738668 or fill out our Envirocare Enquiry Form for any queries regarding indoor air quality monitoring, air Quality assessments, sick building syndrome or if you feel that you could benefit from any of our services in this field. You can also visit our Indoor Air Quality Testing page for more details about this service.