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Sick building syndrome, the killer within


Are you constantly having problems with allergies, mold, or moisture? Is a family member struggling with asthma, chronic winter illness, or even persistent morning headaches? Did you know you can easily improve the situation with proper air quality and ventilation?

Sick building syndrome (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building. According to the World Health Organisation, exposure to air pollutants happens through inhalation of indoor air and this could lead to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) and Legionnaires.

Several studies confirm the relationship between indoor air quality and the occupants’ health, yet its seriousness is mostly undermined. A 1984 World Health Organization report suggested up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be subject of complaints related to poor indoor air quality.

These days less exposure to sun light and no fresh air is the key factor of lot of disease affecting kids and adults.


SBS symptoms

The symptoms of SBS may include:

  • headaches and dizziness
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • aches and pains
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • poor concentration
  • shortness of breath or chest tightness
  • eye and throat irritation
  • irritated, blocked or running nose
  • skin irritation (skin rashes, dry itchy skin)

The symptoms of SBS can appear on their own or in combination with each other and they may vary from day to day. Different individuals in the same building may have different symptoms. They usually improve or disappear altogether after leaving the building.


Risk factors

Since the 1970s, researchers have tried to identify what causes SBS. As yet, no single cause has been identified. However, most experts believe that SBS may be the result of a combination of different factors.

Possible risk factors for SBS may include:


  • poor ventilation
  • low humidity
  • high temperature or changes in temperature throughout the day
  • airborne particles, such as dust, carpet fibres or fungal spores
  • airborne chemical pollutants, such as those from cleaning materials or furniture, or ozone produced by photocopiers and printers
  • physical factors, such as electrostatic charges
  • poor standards of cleanliness in the working environment
  • poor lighting that causes glare or flicker on visual display units (VDUs)
  • improper use of display screen equipment
  • psychological factors, such as stress


Causes and effects

SBS can be identified through a single or a combination of factors. Some symptoms can be attributed either to known toxic effects of high levels of certain chemicals while others are typical of allergic reactions which could be triggered by allergens found in a building.Trouble usually begins with a poor building design. Then there are other factors such as construction operation, building maintenance and related systems, such as heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems that might not be working at a desired level. However, the exact mechanism by which a building condition or its indoor air quality causes its occupants to become ill is still largely unknown. But the problem areas can easily be identified with a closer look at various indoor pollutants and factors that usually contribute to SBS.

For instance, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — chemical compounds that evaporate at ambient temperatures within a building — often irritates the eyes, nose and throat, cause breathing difficulties and even increase the risk of cancer.

Yet another monster is the Carbon monoxide (CO), a colourless and odorless gaseous asphyxiant, often called ‘silent killer’. Once breathed in, it combines with Red Blood Cells (RBCs) and prevents them from carrying oxygen and suffocates the person.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) — another gas with a strong odour — is also an irritant to the respiratory system. Children, the elderly and those with chronic lung disease and asthmatics are most at risk from these effects.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is produced from combustion of fuels, can also be fatal if inhaled in high concentrations. Its long-term, low-level exposure can also destroy lung tissue and lead to emphysema and make people more susceptible to respiratory infections. Clearly, even one or a combination of these could be a recipe for disaster.


So when we design our house, sun light and fresh air should come enough and this make our house healthier. Also we should consider avoiding summer heat and make the house cool by nature, so this will minimize the use of AC and fan so it save energy. Design and planning make your house Green building.