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Building-Related Illness

Christine Johnson

What Are Building-Related Illnesses?

Building-Related Illnesses (BRI) are diseases that are directly caused by air-related problems and poor indoor environments. There has to be a proven connection between a building-related exposure and a specific illness for it to be considered a BRI. Building-related illnesses include Legionnaire’s Disease, occupational asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergies, rashes, and irritated lungs.

Building-related illness is, by definition, different than sick building syndrome. If people experience symptoms that are nonspecific and don’t lead to a diagnosis, but there is a general feeling of discomfort related to the building environment, this could be related to sick building syndrome.

What Causes Building-Related Illnesses?

BRIs are caused by poor indoor air quality. Generally speaking, this is due to dust and pollutants not being ventilated. If a building is not properly ventilated, VOCs emitting from products within the building may not be removed adequately. Biological and chemical contaminants may also impact the air quality in a building.

New buildings, in particular, are more likely to cause BRIs if they are not properly aired out. Additionally, many new buildings are tightly sealed in an effort to be more energy efficient. While this can reduce the carbon footprint of a building, it can lead to inefficient ventilation that contributes to poor indoor air quality.

Symptoms of Building-Related Illnesses

Symptoms of BRI can include fever, chills, coughing, muscle aches, and other flu-like symptoms. Depending on the exact condition, symptoms can vary widely, so if you suspect that you are suffering from a BRI, consult with a medical professional who can evaluate and diagnose your situation.

How To Prevent BRIs

  • Improve building ventilation to increase airflow and remove pollutants
  • Properly maintain HVAC systems; clean out ventilation systems and replace filters
  • Identify and remove sources of air pollution in the building. Furniture, carpets, and other products can all emit VOCs, and should be removed if possible.