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Sick Building Syndrome

Sick Building Syndrome Facts

Sick building syndrome is a condition that occurs when a number of a building's occupants have a constellation of nonspecific symptoms, including nausea; irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; mental fatigue; headaches; skin irritation; and dizziness without a specific identifiable cause. These symptoms should be temporally related to being in the building, resolve when the person is not in the building, and be found in a number of individuals within the building. Sick building syndrome should not be confused with building-related diseases, which have a specific identifiable cause of the symptoms.

Building-Related Diseases Overview

Building-related diseases are distinct maladies that can be traced back to a specific cause. These can range from allergies from molds found in a building, to bacterial infections related to contaminated cooling towers, to cancers from prolonged exposure to carcinogens. One of the most famous examples of building-related disease occurred in 1976 when 182 people attending the American Legion convention became sickened with pneumonia and many died. Ultimately, the cause was found to be the building's cooling towers, which were infected with a previously unheard-of bacteria, Legionella pneumophila.

Sick Building Syndrome Vs. Building-Related Illness

Sick building syndrome, by definition, has no identifiable cause or problem. Building-related illnesses have an identifiable cause for the symptoms or diseases that are being identified in the building's occupants. Without investigation, it is impossible to know if the symptoms being experienced by the building's occupants have a cause or not. If there are multiple workers experiencing symptoms, management should be made aware so that an appropriate investigation can be performed. The company itself may do this, or there may be a need to consult the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/22/2015

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