Sick Building Syndrome Symptoms

Particle Air Cleaning and Sick Building Syndrome Symptoms 

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) symptoms are self-reported acute symptoms, such as irritation of eyes, nose, and throat, headache, fatigue, cough, and tight chest, that occur in a building and improve when away from the building. These symptoms can have multiple causes, thus, they do not indicate a specific type of disease or a specific type of pollutant exposure. Only three studies were identified that investigated whether particle air cleaning reduces sick building syndrome symptoms. One study [1] in two floors of a large office building found no statistically significant reductions in SBS symptoms despite a very large 94% decrease in concentrations of small particles. A second study in offices [2] reported some statistically significant improvements in objective, i.e., measured, health outcomes (nasal cross section, nasal volume, peak expiratory flow) but no significant improvements in health symptoms. The final study [3], performed in classrooms, found no consistent and statistically significant improvements in health symptoms, but reported two cases of a statistically significant worsening of a health outcome. Overall, the limited available evidence suggests that particle filtration in buildings is not very effective in reducing acute sick building syndrome symptoms, in subjects without allergies and asthma.

1.         Mendell, M.J., et al., Indoor particles and symptoms among office workers: results from a double-blind cross-over study. Epidemiology, 2002. 13(3): p. 296-304.

2.         Skulberg, K.R., et al., The effects of intervention with local electrostatic air cleaners on airborne dust and the health of office employees. Indoor Air, 2005. 15(3): p. 152-9.

3.         Wargocki, P., et al., The effects of electrostatic particle filtration and supply-air filter condition in classrooms on the performance of schoolwork by children (RP-1257). HVAC&R Research, 2008. 14(3): p. 327-344.