Two categories of illnesses can result from contaminated indoor air. Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) and Building Related Illnesses. Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a physical reaction to multiple low-level contaminants. These contaminants could be chemical (formaldehyde), biological (mold) or physical (heat, humidity and lighting). Symptoms for SBS include headache, nausea, fatigue, eye irritation and respiratory irritation. These symptoms normally disappear when the afflicted individuals leave the building for a period of time, such as a weekend, but symptoms return when they re-enter it. Generally, it is caused by pollutants that can accumulate over time and reach levels that pose significant health risks.
Building-related illness also is caused by contaminated indoor air. This differs from sick building syndrome in that it is a physical reaction to a single, identifiable contaminant found to be prevalent in the indoor environment. An example of building-related illness is Asthma, Lung Cancer and Legionnaires’ Disease among others.
Building managers need to treat indoor air quality complaints seriously and deal with them promptly. These situations often are difficult to diagnose and solve without expert assistance. The EPA, HCA, CDC and LEED all recommend building managers create and follow an Indoor Air Quality Management Plan to maintain safe conditions for occupants in all types of spaces.