Having dry and itchy skin whenever at work? It could be one of the signs of Sick Building Syndrome. 

Sick Building Syndrome or SBS is a term used to describe a situation when some or all of the occupants inside a built environment are experiencing health and comfort issues that may be due to specific building characteristics. 

Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome include: 

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
  • Headaches
  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Allergy-like symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing or wheezing

Some or all of the above signs may be present, yet no specific illness can be identified. Symptoms can also get worse the longer the occupant stays in a particular building and would subside once the person leaves. 

What causes Sick Building Syndrome?

SBS has no clear cause, but there are some risk factors that can contribute to symptoms. These include:

  • Chemical contaminants such as formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, dust. 
  • Biological contaminants including pollen, viruses, fungus, bacteria, and mold
  • Poor ventilation or the lack of adequate air flow inside a building
  • Environmental factors such as lighting and sound
  • Stress

Can Indoor Air Quality Contribute to Sick Building Syndrome?

Indoor air quality or IAQ has a strong connection to Sick Building Syndrome. Formaldehyde, dust, and VOCs are considered indoor air pollutants. Poor ventilation that allows viruses, bacteria, fungus, and mold to grow even more also present negative impacts on indoor air quality. As the above risk factors develop, indoor air quality increasingly gets poor and occupants are more likely to experience SBS symptoms. 

How to Ease Sick Building Syndrome

  • Control potential sources. Choose low-emitting building materials and safer cleaning products that do not release gasses and substances that are harmful to health and the indoor environment. 
  • Ensure proper ventilation. Maintaining adequate air flow can reduce the risk of viruses and bacteria surviving and growing inside a building, thus preventing SBS symptoms. 
  • Monitor your indoor  environmental quality (IEQ). Continuous IEQ monitoring can help you identify the sources of poor air quality, improve ventilation rates, and ensure that the air is clean, safe, and healthy. Monitoring IAQ can also help you obtain scores to achieve green and healthy building certifications such as GreenMark, LEED, and WELL. 

Interested in improving workplace experience through better air?



  1. www.cdc.gov
  2. www.nhs.uk
  3. www.healthline.com
  4. www.epa.gov
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