Since 1991, the EPA describes Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) which occurs in buildings where occupants experience acute health effects and discomfort linked to occupying a building with no specific illness or cause identified. Reports suggest up to 30% of new or remodeled buildings worldwide may have SBS. Some buildings face long-term problems when it is not properly operated or maintained, affecting air quality. Indoor air problems can result from poor building design or from activities within the building. SBS is indicated when a cause is not apparent and most of the complainants’ reports indicate relief after leaving the building.
Causes of SBS are usually attributed to inadequate ventilation, chemical contaminants from indoor/outdoor sources, and biological contaminants. Indoor air pollution commonly comes from sources inside such as adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, copy machines, pesticides, and cleaning agents many of which may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde.
Investigating SBS can identify the source(s) of the problem and indicate solutions to solve indoor air quality complaints. A thorough investigation will be organized and methodical accounting for its occupants, the HVAC system, and possible contaminant pathways and sources. Biological contaminants, for example, may stem from stagnant water accumulating in ducting, humidifiers, and drain pans.
EPA Sick Building factsheet: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-08/documents/sick_building_factsheet.pdf