The sick building syndrome : a study of some contributing factors.
The Sick building syndrome(SBS) is a complex symptomology of individuals related
to the adverse effects of indoor environment on health. Although almost any workplace can
be affected it is most often associatedw ith the office environment. The causeso f SBS are not
well understood, no single factor or agent has been identified. Some studies have indicated
that SBS may be a result of multiple factors, including chemical, biological, physical,
psychosocial, and occupational variables. One such variable, environmental tobacco smoke,
has not been properly investigated as a contributing cause, and may be related to chemical
sensitivity(CS). Some authors consider that victims of the SBS may be an example of
chemical sensitivity and further that some CS patients become sensitive to electromagnetic
fields(EMF) or electromagnetic radiations(EMR).
The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of these potentially contributing
factors to the sick building syndrome. 722 people in fifteen buildings with different ventilation
systems were investigated via self-administrated questionnaires, in which data of SBS
symptoms and ETS exposure and other information were collected. The results indicated that
the combination of ETS exposure and working in air-conditioned office buildings contributed
to the SBS symptoms in both uni-variate analysis, and multiple regression analysis, but
neither of these variables individually has a significant effect on SBS. The contribution of
environmental tobacco smoke is therefore considered to be small, but may be a contributing
factor when taken together with other variables with air-conditioned buildings.
In order to test the possible effects of electromagnetic fields on chemical sensitivity,
47 patients(19 sensitive to both electromagnetic fields and chemicals and 28 sensitive to
chemicals only), and 34 controls were tested with sinusoidal uniform magnetic fields
. using Helmhotz coils in a single-blinded design study. The effects of exposure were
tested by measurement of a number of physiological variables. Short time exposure to weak
uniform sinusoidal magnetic fields at extremely low frequencies did not trigger more
symptoms in chemical sensitivity patients than in controls. Significant changes in blood
pressure and some parameters of pupil light reflexes were found in both CS patients and
controls. Results indicate that ELF electromagnetic radiation may have an excitation effects
on the sympathetic nervous system; however neither electrically sensitive nor chemically
sensitive patients were more sensitive in these effects than controls.
The contribution of tobacco smoke and ELF electromagnetic radiation to the cause of
sick building symptoms needs further quantitative investigations