The Common Causes of Sick Building Syndrome and How to Prevent Them

businessman raising his hands in front of commercial buildings

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a condition that can afflict both office workers and home dwellers alike. SBS is characterized by a range of symptoms that include headache, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. SBS can lead to shortness of breath and difficulty concentrating in severe cases.

While the exact cause of SBS is not known, many factors are believed to contribute to the condition. Discover some of the most common causes of SBS and what you can do to prevent them.

Poor Indoor Air Quality

One of the most common causes of Sick Building Syndrome is poor indoor air quality. This can be caused by a number of things, including pets, mold, pollen, dust mites, and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Disease-causing germs are also common culprits. The COVID-19 pandemic should be a lesson to everyone: the air can cause illnesses. Although they may not be visible to the eye, many of them are very harmful to health, float around indoor air, and are regularly inhaled.

To improve air quality, keeping the indoor environment clean is important. This means regular dusting, vacuuming, and mopping. Air filters should be frequently replaced, or invest in a dedicated air purifier. An indoor plant can also help to improve air quality by absorbing harmful VOCs.

Another common cause of SBS is stagnant air. This can happen when a room is not properly ventilated or when doors and windows are sealed shut for long periods of time.

To prevent stagnant air from causing SBS, open doors and windows as often as possible to let fresh air in. You might also consider investing in an air purifier with a built-in fan to help circulate the air in your home or office.

Irritants in Cleaning Products

Commercial cleaning products contain various chemicals and irritants that trigger SBS symptoms. Bleach, for example, is a common cleaning product ingredient that can cause headaches, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. Some air fresheners can also be problematic, as they often contain VOCs.

To prevent these symptoms, it’s important to read the labels of all cleaning products before using them and to ventilate the area well while cleaning.

To avoid this, try using natural cleaning products specifically designed for people with allergies or sensitivities. When using any kind of cleaning product, open doors and windows for ventilation and wear a mask if possible.

Hazardous Chemicals

In some cases, spaces that recently went through or are going through renovations may be using or have used hazardous chemicals that can cause various health problems, including SBS.

There are many materials used in construction that are harmful to one’s health. Workers must wear protective equipment to¬†apply spray foam insulation, for example, or even just normal paint to ensure that they do not inhale the fumes. If you are experiencing SBS symptoms and there has been construction in or near your building, this may be the cause.

To prevent this, try to avoid being in the area where renovation occurs. If you must go into the area, wear a mask and make sure to ventilate the space as much as possible.

If you suspect that your office or home may be contaminated with hazardous chemicals, get out immediately and contact a professional for testing and remediation.


Mold is another common cause of SBS. Mold thrives in damp, dark, and humid environments and can release spores into the air that can trigger various respiratory problems, including SBS.

Mold can thrive anywhere there is moisture. Most commonly, it can be found in bathrooms and sinks, but ducts, windows, and any other area where there is condensation can also be susceptible. Worse, when airways grow molds, spores can spread further and affect more people within a building.

A man using an inhaler

Mold exposure can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the person. For some, it can cause a stuffy nose, coughing, and wheezing. Others may experience skin irritation or rashes. Some people may not show symptoms immediately after exposure but develop them over time. See a doctor for diagnosis and treatment if you think you may have been exposed to mold.

To prevent mold growth, it’s important to keep these areas as dry as possible. Use a dehumidifier in humid environments and repair any leaks promptly.

SBS can have several causes, from hazardous chemicals to mold. The best way to prevent SBS is to identify the cause and take steps to remedy it. In this article, we’ve outlined some of the most common causes of SBS and how you can prevent them. See a doctor for diagnosis and treatment if you’re experiencing any symptoms of SBS.

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