If Your Building Is Sick – You Might Be Too

Woman with Headache

Have you ever gone to the building and realize that soon after you go in, you start feeling like you’ve been run over by a tractor? Well maybe it’s not you … your building may actually be the thing that is sick. There are so many buildings in the United States that have mold or some other toxic substance oozing from them, causing you to feel horrible each time you are exposed.

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a syndrome of symptoms that can be observed after exposure to chemical, biological or other toxic substances. Occupants of a structure experience acute health and comfort ill effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. Most of the time, the levels of these reported or measured substances are actually okay for most. But because everyone is different, some people can really have a hard time. There are a myriad of symptoms, most being non-specific as you would expect; nevertheless, they can be debilitating. The symptoms include fatigue, eye, nose or throat irritation, respiratory problems, dizziness, headache, muscle pain, memory problems, mood swings, skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and confusion just to name a few.

Poor building ventilation seems to play a part, as well as many indoor air pollutants such as adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, pesticides, and cleaning agents, including formaldehyde. We also have to include the omnipresent tobacco smoke.

Studies show that women between the ages of 30 and 50 are more likely to develop the symptoms and these symptoms are also more common among military personnel, particularly Gulf War veterans. Some speculate that it is an immune response similar to allergies. Others say that the symptoms stem from an extreme sensitivity to certain smells. It’s possible that conditions such as depression and anxiety play a role. There are no proven treatments; some doctors prescribe antidepressants, like Prozac, but my goal in treatment is 2 fold. I treat specific symptoms, such as headaches, and then most importantly, I remove the person from the building. People often find solutions on their own, but the extreme action of quitting a job is not feasible option for most working Americans.

If you must remain in the building, I recommend that you inquire to see if an indoor air quality investigation has ever been performed. If not, request one.  The one thing that you can’t do if you have these symptoms is act like they don’t exist.