Sick Building Syndrome (Environmental Illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Sick Building Syndrome Symptoms & Signs

Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds can occur spontaneously when the nasal membranes dry out, crust, and crack, as is common in dry climates, or during the winter months when the air is dry and warm from household heaters. People are more susceptible if they are taking medications that prevent normal blood clotting (Coumadin, warfarin, aspirin, or any anti-inflammatory medication). Other predisposing factors include infection, trauma, allergic and non-allergic rhinitis, hypertension, alcohol abuse, and inherited bleeding problems.

Sick building syndrome facts

  • Sick building syndrome is believed by some to be an illness caused by unknown agents in buildings.
  • Sick building syndrome is a controversial subject because many experts do not think it is a true syndrome.
  • Sick building syndrome has no known cause, however, known causes of illness such as lead poisoning, formaldehyde fumes, and many others have been associated with individual buildings.
  • For those who believe the syndrome is real, many risk factors are cited.
  • Many nonspecific symptoms cited for the syndrome fit no pattern.
  • There are no diagnostic tests for the syndrome.
  • There is no specific treatment for the syndrome.
  • Complications of the alleged syndrome range from increased symptoms to inability to tolerate being inside a certain building and the problems, many job related, that may occur.
  • The prognosis of an alleged syndrome is unclear, but symptomatic treatments may reduce problems and result in a fair to good prognosis -- so may treatment of known causes of building-related problems like formaldehyde and paint fumes and many others.
  • Prevention is difficult in a syndrome without a known cause, no diagnostic tests, and no defined treatments, but the Environmental Protection Agency provides prevention methods to address known disease problems that can be diagnosed and are known to be related to air-moving systems and construction materials used in buildings.

What is sick building syndrome?

Sick building syndrome (also termed environmental illness, building-related illness [BRI], or multiple chemical sensitivity [MCS]) is considered by some clinicians to be an illness in some people after they are exposed to as yet undefined chemical, biological, or physical agents that are thought to be found in building(s). The term was first used in 1986 and has been controversial ever since. BRI (building-related illness) is becoming the more accepted term used in medical literature.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/8/2016

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