OBJECTIVES: To investigate the occurrence of sick building syndrome in a tropical city, and its relation to indoor air quality and other factors. METHODS: 2856 office workers in 56 randomly selected public and private sector buildings were surveyed. The study consisted of a self administered questionnaire assessing symptoms and perception of the physical and psychosocial environment, inspection of the building plans and premises, and measurement of temperature, relative humidity, respirable particles, chemicals, bioaerosols, and other variables. RESULTS: Symptoms typical of the sick building syndrome were reported in 19.6% of the respondents. Multivariate modelling substantiated contributions associated with low thermal comfort, high work related stress, too much noise, a history of allergy or other medical conditions, poor lighting, young employees, and female sex. Measurements of indoor air quality or ventilation were not found to be reliable predictors of the symptoms. CONCLUSION: The survey confirmed the presence of sick building syndrome and its risk factors in the tropics. A biopsychosocial approach to the problem involving symptomatic treatment, environmental control, good ergonomic design, and stress management is recommended.
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