Because of modern building materials and airtight constructions, the indoor air quality (IAQ) in many commercial buildings can have an adverse effect on people’s health and productivity.

This building sickness has been termed “Sick Building Syndrome” (SBS) and its cause cannot easily be identified.

Modern buildings often suffer from poor indoor air quality.

Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome:

– Headache

– Eye, nose or throat irritation

– Dry cough

– Dry or itchy skin

– Dizziness and nausea

– Difficulty concentrating

– Fatigue

– Sensitivity to odors

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, these complaints can stem from other causes, including allergies and other illnesses, but studies show that symptoms may be caused or aggravated by poor indoor air quality.

What to do when you suspect Sick Building Syndrome

Step 1
Identify possible causes

Sick Building Syndrome has been associated with environments that feature inadequate ventilation. Does your building have a ventilation system and does it provide enough clean, outdoor air for every person in the room? Familiarize yourself with the recommended ventilation standards by organizations such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

Building sickness can also be caused by chemical pollution released by building materials and furnishings in the building. Examples include adhesives, carpeting, copy machines and cleaning agents. Many modern-day products emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde. Often, chemical pollutants also enter the building from the outside, through poorly placed air intake vents.

Another possible cause for sick building syndrome is biological in nature. Bacteria, molds and viruses plague many interior spaces, and they thrive in moist and humid environments.

Keep these possible causes in mind during the initial walk-through.

Step 2

Introduce measures to improve indoor air quality

Source control: If the source of the pollution has been identified, you can take the appropriate steps toward removal and future protection. These steps depend on the specific problem in the building and may include periodic cleaning and maintenance of the filters in heating and air conditioning systems, fixing water leaks promptly as well as repairing any affected materials and using less pollutant products or limiting exposure to building occupants.

Ventilation: See above.

Air cleaning: EPA recommends using an air purification system as an adjunct to the two previous measures to capture smaller particles as well as chemicals and gaseous pollutants that are floating through the air. Many industrial and commercial settings have specific requirements when it comes to cleaning the air. You can find the right air purification system for offices, printing environments, schools and universities and other applications on Electrocorp’s list of applications.


Step 3

Collect information about indoor air quality

There are many useful resources that can help sort out your indoor air quality problems, provide chemical and odor control solutions and make workplaces healthier. Check out national health and safety organizations such as EPA or Health Canada. Standards often change and air quality tests can provide helpful information.