Have you ever heard of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)? It is a real thing. If you are not familiar with the syndrome and its causes, we encourage you to look into it. Employees who complain of not feeling well at work, only to feel much better after leaving the office, could be suffering from SBS.
If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with commercial cleaning services, keep reading. Some of the chemicals and/or cleaning techniques your cleaning company utilizes could be contributing to employee complaints of not feeling well.
Not a New Thing
It turns out that SBS is not a new thing. It dates back at least to the 1980s. Our own EPA published a rather comprehensive document about SBS in 1991. You can read it here.
The EPA describes SBS as a situation “in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to the time spent in the building.” Their definition goes on to explain that no specific illness is identified even though people are not feeling well. When affected people leave the building in question, they begin to feel better.
Most Likely Causes of SBS
People experiencing bouts of SBS tend to complain of headaches, dizzy spells, coughing, fatigue, muscle aches, fever, sore throat, eye irritation, and a variety of other symptoms. Not every person experiencing SBS manifests the exact same symptoms. In addition, symptom severity can differ from one person to the next.
According to the EPA, here are the most likely causes of SBS:
- Interior Contaminants – Interior contaminants circulating via the air are a potential culprit in SBS. This is where cleaning chemicals come in. Certain chemicals containing high levels of volatile compounds can make people sick. Other contaminants, like smoke and leaching fumes, can be problematic as well.
- Exterior Contaminants – Exterior contaminants can be introduced inside a building through exhaust vents, air intake systems, and even improperly working HVAC systems.
- Poor Ventilation – Buildings of all types need to be properly ventilated to keep fresh air coming in while stagnant air is removed. When a building suffers from poor ventilation, the stagnant air could contribute to SBS.
- Biological Contaminants – Biological contaminants like mold and pollen can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Of course, bacteria and viruses are also problematic. SBS related to biological contaminants tends to manifest in symptoms like cough, fever, and chills.
It is important to not assume that employees complaining about not feeling well are just imagining things. SBS is a recognized syndrome around the world. Rather than dismissing it, it’s better to try to understand what might be making employees sick so that corrective action can be taken.
We Can Help with the Cleaning
Regardless of the exact cause of SBS, proper cleaning can go a long way toward reducing or eliminating it. Regular surface cleaning that includes sanitation and disinfecting can eliminate biological contaminants and keep future contamination at bay.
Meanwhile, green cleaning products that do not contain high levels of volatile compounds reduce the risks of being exposed to chemicals that could trigger SBS symptoms. We can help make your workplace less susceptible to SBS with a comprehensive green cleaning program.
SBS is a real problem and something that can make going to work very unpleasant. If any of your employees complain of certain symptoms that don’t seem to have any other logical explanation, at least consider the possibility of SBS. If it turns out your building is making workers sick, the problem can almost always be addressed with easy-to-implement changes.