Sick building syndrome linked to job stress

Sick building syndrome might be more aptly named "lousy job syndrome," a study here suggested.

Syndrome symptoms correlated only weakly with the environmental properties of office buildings, but the symptoms correlated strongly with having a demanding job and lacking social support at work, said Mai Stafford, M.D., of the University College London Medical School here.

"The results," Dr. Stafford and colleagues concluded in the April issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, "imply that if sick building syndrome is reported in a building, management should consider causes beyond the physical design and operation of the workplace and should widen their investigation to include the organization of work roles and the autonomy of the workforce."

Previous research has failed to find consistent associations between particular physical properties of buildings and the syndrome, Dr. Stafford and colleagues noted.

Building properties that are said to contribute to the syndrome include temperature; humidity; the presence of dust mites or volatile organic compounds; and high levels of airborne bacteria, fungi, or dust, the researchers said.

Symptoms of the syndrome include headache, cough, dry eyes, fatigue, rashes, sore throat, and wheeze, they added, reports MedPage Today.

According to Times Online, for the past 20 years people have been blaming the quality of buildings and their facilities, such as air-conditioning, for a range of symptoms that include headaches, coughs, tired or itchy eyes, runny noses or inexplicable tiredness. The study finds no evidence that the buildings are to blame.

A personal “sick building syndrome” score was created for each participant by adding the number of items ticked from the ten listed.

Separately, most of the buildings were also assessed by independent field workers who checked temperature, lighting intensity, levels of airborne bacteria, fungi and dust, humidity, ventilation flow, noise level and concentrations of carbon dioxide and airborne organic chemicals.

One in seven of the men and nearly one in five of the women respondents reported five or more symptoms of the syndrome.


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