Employee complaints can be due to two types of building problems: Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), and building-related illnesses. SBS is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness can be identified. SBS is associated with complaints of discomfort including headache, nausea and dizziness; eye, nose, throat, and respiratory irritation; coughing; difficulty concentrating; sensitivity to odors; muscle pain; and fatigue. The specific causes of the symptoms are often not known but sometimes are attributed to the effects of a combination of substances or individual susceptibility to low concentrations of contaminants. Symptoms of SBS are associated with periods of occupancy and often disappear after the worker leaves the worksite.
While pollutants commonly found in door air are responsible for many harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty about what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific health problems. People also react very differently to exposure to indoor air pollutants. Comprehensive worker protections provided pursuant to OSHA, discussed below, are not considered particularly stringent. Where there have been competing regimes, whether by EPA or state agencies, these agencies have generally set standards that are occasionally orders of magnitude more stringent than those set by OSHA.