Sick Building Syndrome 病态建筑综合征

Posted on November 27, 2018
by PureLiving

Many people are aware that building construction and renovations can put harmful substances into the air. Typically, building ventilation takes place before occupants move in to remove the substances and ensure the air is fresh. However, even after the building has been occupied for a long time, some people may still experience discomfort in the building. When there is no clear cause, this is called SBS, or sick building syndrome.


What is SBS?


SBS, or sick building syndrome, is a medical condition where people in a building suffer from symptoms of illness or feel unwell for no apparent reason. Compared to a defined illness or disease, which includes symptoms but also identifies the underlying cause, a syndrome describes the symptoms but the underlying cause is unknown. With SBS, these symptoms usually improve or even disappear after the person leaves the building. Studies and research state that about 30% of new and remodeled buildings are linked to cases of SBS. Poor indoor air quality is the chief cause for the symptoms of SBS.


Note that SBS should be differentiated from Building-Related Illness (BRI). BRI is a term referring to illness brought on by exposure to the building air, where symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified(e.g., certain allergies or infections) and can be directly attributed to environmental agents in the air. SBS in contrast is defined by symptoms appearing in response to spending time in the building; unlike BRI, where air is the cause of illness, SBS has no definitive causes to be identified.


SBS can be diagnosed when the occupant of a building experiences acute health effects that seem to be related to the time spent in the building. Usually, there is not any illness or specific cause that can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone or may be widespread throughout the building. Additionally, analysis of air samples often fails to detect high concentrations of specific contaminants which could cause the complaints. 


Symptoms of SBS

Symptoms of SBS include:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat 
  • Dry or itchy skin, skin sensitivity

  • Giddiness

  • Dry, irritating cough

  • Nausea

  • Overtiredness and lethargy

  • Sensitivity to odors

Most of the times, the symptoms of sick building syndrome get allayed once the individual leaves the building. Then again, in sensitive individuals, the symptoms may be persistent, and the pollutant could leave lasting effects. In some cases, the patient may need a professional assistance from doctors or other medical experts in order to address symptoms caused by SBS.


Cause of SBS

cause of SBS

The exact cause of SBS is not known; however, the syndrome may be caused by any or all of the following:

  • The combined effects of multiple pollutants at low concentrations

    • Toxins emitted by off-gassing building materials, molds, and volatile organic materials. 

    • Toxins and noxious wastes from outside sources such as vehicle fumes and exhausts, plumbing vents, and inside sources such as carpeting, upholstery, cleaning agents and pesticides. 

  • Other environmental stressors

    • Faults in the ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems.

    • Poor temperature and humidity conditions.

    • Poor lighting, noise

  • Ergonomic stressors

  • Job-related psychosocial stressors (e.g., overcrowding, labor-management problems)

  • Unknown factors  (depending on specific cases)


How to prevent SBS

Since it is hard to find the exact cause of SBS in every afflicted building, there are a few ways to consider preventing it:

  • Toxin-absorbing plants, such as sansevieria.

  • Replacement of water-stained ceiling, tiles and carpeting.

  • Increasing the number of air exchanges; the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers recommend a minimum of 8.4 air exchanges per 24-hour period.

  • Proper and frequent maintenance of HVAC systems.

  • Installation of HVAC Air Cleaning systems or devices to remove VOCs and bioeffluents (people odors) from HVAC systems conditioned air.

  • Regular vacuuming with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner to collect and retain 99.97% of particles down to and including 0.3 micrometers.

  • Increasing ventilation rates to above the minimum guidelines.

Green building

How we can help

Over the past few years, PureLiving has completed many commercial projects to improve indoor working environments. With our advanced indoor air filtration system Pure-Qi, we can help you eliminate potential factors that may lead to Sick Building Syndrome. PureLiving can plan and provide a total solution according to your specific needs, using different types of filters to achieve the best purification performance.