03.07.2017 Author: Zehnder Clean Air Solutions

When buildings make us ill – sick building syndrome

The oxygen in the air around us is essential for our survival. However, the air around us can also become dangerous for us. For years, researchers have been analyzing why people feel sick when they spend extended periods of time in enclosed spaces.



Sick at work


We spend most of the day (up to 90 %) in buildings, and much of that time is spent at work. Nearly 30 % of employees in industrialized nations complain of allergy-like symptoms such as eye irritation, cough, headache and even dizziness in the workplace. The air-conditioning system is often blamed. But what many people don’t know is that the room or the building itself can be the cause.

According to experts, all the above symptoms can be the result of sick building syndrome (SBS). It is not clear what causes SBS, but the symptoms disappear when a person leaves the building.

According to the WHO, SBS is diagnosed if at least 20 % of the workforce are affected.


Investigating the cause: What exactly is making us ill?


There are numerous theories that explain sick building syndrome causes. Here is a summary:

- Inadequate ventilation

- Poorly maintained air-conditioning

- Technical equipment such as printers, computers, etc.

- Furniture, floor coverings and wall paints

- Contaminants from the outside air


In our increasingly sealed interior spaces, air exchange becomes extremely difficult, and rooms are exposed to more dust and other undesirable particles. An inadequately maintained air-conditioning system blows viruses, bacteria and moulds into the air we breathe. However, the technology, furniture, and processed materials around can also give off toxic emissions. Other harmful air particles, for example from exhaust fumes, can enter the building from outdoor areas.


Create a healthy and natural work environment


Sickness in the workplace implies less productive and less content employees. Business suffers as a result. Companies lose money as productivity declines and rates of absenteeism increase.

If multiple employees report similar symptoms, you should take their complaints seriously and check the indoor air quality. If increased pollutant levels are detected, purify the air in a continuous and sustainable manner. Professional air purification systems are helpful. Use natural, non-harmful materials when you furnish workspaces. You can also significantly reduce the risk of sick building syndrome by regularly maintaining the air-conditioning system and ensuring appropriate ventilation and humidity levels. Design your workspaces to be as pleasant as possible. Your employees will thank you with fewer absences.



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