Facts About Sick Building Syndrome

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Man blowing his nose in the office

Are your employees taking their sick leaves more frequently? Explanations can be plenty, but one of these might be sick building syndrome (SBS). These four facts will provide you with more information about it:

1. Sick Building Syndrome Is a Complex Condition

What is sick building syndrome? It is a condition characterized by a wide range of symptoms that affect multiple employees. These symptoms, which can affect organs such as the skin and the respiratory systems, do not exist individually. Personal factors might not also be able to explain their appearance.

Science still debates whether SBS is real or not, or whether its effect is significant to employees. A 2006 epidemiological study in the Occupational & Environmental Medicine revealed that an office’s physical environment might be less critical than the psychosocial impact of work.

However, even poor lighting alone can induce stress, headaches, and eye strain. It can also increase the risks of fatigue and anxiety, all of which can decrease a person’s productivity.

2. It Doesn’t Have a Standard Test

Because it is isn’t officially recognized as a disease, it doesn’t have a standard test. This makes determining whether SBS is the root cause for the absence of employees difficult. Usually, companies that suspect their physical environment might have to do with the low productivity will perform a self-assessment survey. Workers will answer a series of questions about the impact of their physical environment to their physical and mental health.

Companies can bring in experts to conduct a more thorough investigation. It can include looking into the employees’ medical history, understanding the building’s history, and conducting building inspections. Whether there’s SBS or not, businesses should still strive to improve the working areas. For example, they need to consider up-to-date duct cleaning in Kansas City.

Dust and mold can accumulate in ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Poorly maintained ducts can spread these across different rooms within an office. Meanwhile, multiple studies already showed how these particulates could increase the risks of allergies, asthma, and other respiratory conditions, which can then lead to absences.

man having a headache

3. It Goes Beyond Poor Lighting

While lighting seems to be one of the possible reasons for SBS, many factors can still induce the symptoms. These include:

  • Humidity and ventilation
  • Access to sunlight or natural light
  • Levels of moisture
  • Presence of mold
  • Traffic noise
  • Urban pollution
  • Chemical and biological contaminants

Depending on the severity, the symptoms can be acute or chronic. They can also last for a couple of weeks to years, such as in the case of a Swedish office.

4. The Symptoms Are Non-Specific

This means that one cannot attribute the symptoms to a specific illness or disease, which can be preexisting or not. These can be:

  • Headaches
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Blurry vision
  • Skin irritation
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Allergy-like symptoms
  • Breathing difficulties

Science might continue to debate the existence or importance of SBS. One thing is clear: employees need to have optimal working conditions to be productive. To achieve that, businesses should follow building codes and keep their physical environment free of factors that can potentially cause disease or injury.


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