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Understanding Sick Building Syndrome (SBS): Causes and Symptoms

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a term coined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to describe a perplexing phenomenon. It's a condition in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that seem to be directly related to the time they spend within a particular building. Yet, despite the evident discomfort, no specific illness or cause can be readily identified. In simpler terms, it's a situation where a building could be making you sick, but the root cause remains elusive.

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is more than just a term; it's a health concern experienced by individuals inside various types of buildings, be it offices or residential spaces. What makes SBS distinct is the strong correlation between the symptoms and the time spent within that building's environment. However, the challenge lies in pinpointing a specific illness or causative factor. This enigmatic condition has garnered attention due to its potential to affect the well-being of those who occupy such spaces, raising concerns about indoor environmental quality.

In essence, Sick Building Syndrome is a hidden health hazard that underscores the importance of investigating and rectifying issues within our indoor environments, as it can significantly impact the health and comfort of building occupants.

Causes of Sick Building Syndrome

SBS can be attributed to a combination of factors, often related to indoor environmental quality. These factors may include:

  1. Poor Indoor Air Quality: In about 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings, poor indoor air quality has been identified as a major contributor to SBS according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission[1]. Contaminants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens, and pollutants can accumulate indoors.

  2. Inadequate Ventilation: Insufficient ventilation can lead to the buildup of pollutants and a lack of fresh air circulation.

  3. Chemical Exposure: Exposure to chemicals from building materials, cleaning products, or even office equipment can contribute to SBS.

  4. Biological Factors: Mold, bacteria, and other microorganisms can thrive in poorly maintained buildings, triggering health issues.

Common Symptoms of SBS

People affected by Sick Building Syndrome may experience a variety of symptoms, which can vary in severity. Some common symptoms include:

  1. Headaches: Recurring headaches are a prevalent complaint among SBS sufferers.

  2. Eye, Nose, and Throat Irritation: Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, characterized by symptoms like itching, dryness, or a scratchy feeling.

  3. Fatigue: A persistent feeling of tiredness or low energy levels, often not relieved by rest.

  4. Dizziness and Nausea: Some individuals may experience dizziness or nausea while in the affected building.

  5. Difficulty Concentrating: SBS can impact cognitive function, making it challenging to focus and concentrate on tasks.

Preventing and Managing SBS

In conclusion, Sick Building Syndrome is a condition characterized by unexplained health symptoms experienced by occupants of specific buildings. While the exact causes can vary, addressing indoor air quality, ventilation, and cleanliness can help mitigate SBS symptoms and create a healthier indoor environment.

Cleaning for SBS Prevention

For commercial buildings in Wake County, North Carolina, where SBS can be a concern, professional cleaning services like ServiceMaster of Wake County play a vital role. Their expertise in commercial cleaning and understanding of local needs make them a valuable resource.

Sick Building Syndrome is a complex issue affecting many, and its causes often relate to indoor environmental quality. Recognizing the symptoms and addressing the root causes, such as poor ventilation or chemical exposure, can help create healthier indoor environments.

For expert commercial cleaning services in Wake County, including those tailored to prevent SBS, consider contacting ServiceMaster of Wake County at (919) 899-2279 or via their contact form. Don't let your building make you sick—take action today.


  1. The sick building syndrome - PMC

  2. Sick building syndrome - NHS

  3. Sick Building Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, Tests & ... - eMedicineHealth