Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a term that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), describes situations when workers experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be caused by time spent in a building, but no specific cause or illness can be found. Indicators of SBS can include symptoms that range from fatigue to eye, nose, and throat irritation. The cause of the symptoms is not known and relief generally occurs soon after leaving the building.
There are many causes of SBS, such as poor air circulation and ventilation, but the main cause of SBS is the quality of air inside a building, which can cause occupational asthma.
Occupational asthma comprises 15 percent of all cases of asthma that occur in adults, making it the most common work-related lung disease in the world. It is caused by substances known as asthmagens, and 200 have been identified so far.
In order to prevent occupational asthma, workplace assessments must be taken to identify asthmagens in a potential work site. Other measures include employers, employees, and workplace health and safety officials deciding on appropriate strategies to minimize or eliminate exposure, such as installing better ventilation systems.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an estimated 11 million workers in a wide range of industries and jobs are exposed to at least one of the agents associated with occupational asthma.
It's also important for employers to control irritating dust and particulates in the air from products, a manufacturing process, or sweeping. Safety products that may be required include dust masks or respirators, and disposable coveralls. A well equipped first aid room, including a first aid kit and other first aid supplies, should be available to workers in the event of illness or an asthma attack.