Sick Building Syndrome

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define Sick Building Syndrome as a condition that is generally caused by poor indoor air quality. In addition, it causes more than 20% of the occupants in the building occupants to have persistent conditions while inside. Symptoms reduce within hours of leaving the effected building. Some of the symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome are:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation.
  • sensitisation of the mucous membranes.
  • Erythema (redness of the skin).
  • Mental Fatigue.
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and dizziness.
  • High frequency of airway infections or coughs.

What causes Sick Building Syndrome?

The full causes of sick building syndrome are unknown, but poor air quality is a factor. In. brief, the factors that affect indoor air quality, include:

  • Poor air conditioning.
  • Building materials and furniture.
  • Building decorations and repairs.
  • High or low air moisture content.
  • Equipment within the building such as photocopiers.
  • Emissions from nearby sources.
  • Gases from the soils around and under the building.
  • Human activities such as scents personal hygiene products.
  • Mould spores.
  • Dust Mites.

How do we test for Sick Building Syndrome?

Synergy provides a range of sick building syndrome tests to measure the indoor air quality in buildings. For example we can measure carbon dioxide levels, moisture, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, mould volatile organic compounds and dust mites levels.

Sick Building Syndrome

Indoor Air Quality Tests

Carbon Dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is one of the best indicators of poor indoor air quality. Improvements in building technology, and increased legislation, means buildings are becoming increasingly air tight. While this is good for building efficiency, unless the ventilation is correctly controlled and maintained, carbon dioxide builds up and causes problems for the occupants. The problem often occurs in buildings with high occupancy such as offices, call centres and theatres.

Volatile Organic Compounds.

There are thousands of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are present in the indoor environment. For example VOCs that arise from the building itself, from its maintenance or from the occupants of the building themselves.

The effect of VOCs on indoor air quality can be dramatic. Some of the compounds are harmful, with symptoms that range from nose, throat and eye irritation to carcinogenic effects and reproductive or birth defects.

Synergy sample the air for the most common and the most toxic (the 18 EPA hazardous air pollutants) of these compounds and measure them down to one molecule in a billion.

Our reports compare these results to published NIOSH exposure limits to let you know if any of them are present at harmful levels. We also compare the results to the average levels in the building, so that you know if your results are, low, normal or elevated. In addition our reports state the most likely source of the compounds in the air, so that you can correct the problem.


Formaldehyde is a very common pollutant in indoor air. For example, wood products such as mdf use it in the glue. Furniture and flooring often release it. It also occurs in paints, in fungicides, in personal hygiene products and as a product of combustion.

Some people are more susceptible to low levels of formaldehyde. This can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. As well as these irritant effects, formaldehyde is a probable human carcinogen.

Synergy measure the concentration of formaldehyde in buildings down to the parts per billion level and compare it to the recommended UK limit. We also compare the measured results to the average results so that you know whether your formaldehyde level is low medium or elevated.

Mould Spores.

There are many different types of mould spores with differing health effects. Consequently, Synergy  provide a range of tests from simple indicative tests to see if the levels are low, medium or elevated to tests that quantify the number and identify the type of mould present.

Dust Mites.

Dust mite allergies are common. Some occupants have a reaction, to the tiny airborne particles that the dust mites produce, which give a range of symptoms . For example runny or blocked noses, itchy, red or watering eyes and wheezing air ways. These allergens also make asthma symptoms worse. A screen of your building will tell you whether the dust mite levels are low medium or elevated. We also provide advice on reducing the levels of these dust mites.

Synergy’s technicians have unrivalled experience in indoor air quality measurements and Sick Building Syndrome testing. We carry out assessments for west end theatres, call centres, office blocks and private homes. 

Further reading.
NHS – Synptoms

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