While most people might catch the flu in the winter or suffer from allergies in the spring, a building’s immune system is continually being tested. An environment that appears “healthy” on the surface could be plagued by invisible, odorless elements hazardous to the health of the occupants.
But what exactly is sick building syndrome (SBS)?
“Sick building syndrome is a term often used to refer to a variety of non-specific concerns such as headache, fatigue and mucus membrane/eye irritation,” says Rob Rottersman MS, CIH, a senior manager at the Chicago-based company Environ. “While these concerns will be present at some level in every building, in cases with SBS they may occur at higher than normal rates or symptoms that will resolve with time away from the building.”
Ian Cull, P.E. for the Chicago-based company Indoor Sciences explains that “syndrome” can be a misleading word presenting managers and board members with a confusing explanation of events. “The very phrase ‘sick building syndrome’ has fallen out of favor perhaps because the word ‘syndrome’ refers to not knowing what is causing the problem and therefore the problem might be considered not a big deal.”
Cull says that often a more appropriate explanation is Building Related Issues (BRI). Rottersman adds that BRI shouldn’t be used interchangeably with SBS because this diagnosis usually includes a “documented clinical disease and a building related factor linked to the disease.”