Indoor Carbon Dioxide Concentrations, VOCs, Environmental Sensitivity Association with Mucous Membrane and Lower Respiratory Sick Building Syndrome Symptoms in the Base Study: Analyses of the 100 Building Dataset

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Using the 100 office-building Building Assessment Survey and Evaluation (BASE) Study dataset, we performed multivariate logistic regression analyses to quantify the associations between indoor minus outdoor CO2 (dCO2) concentrations and mucous membrane (MM) and lower respiratory system (Lresp) Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) symptoms, adjusting for age, sex, smoking status, presence of carpet in workspace, thermal exposure, relative humidity, and a marker for entrained automobile exhaust. Using principal components analysis we identified a number of possible sources of 73 measured volatile organic compounds in the office buildings, and assessed the impact of these VOCs on the probability of presenting the SBS symptoms. Additionally we included analysis adjusting for the risks for predisposition of having SBS symptoms associated with the allergic, asthmatic, and environmentally sensitive subpopulations within the office buildings. Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) for statistically significant, dose-dependant associations (p<0.05) for dry eyes, sore throat, nose/sinus congestion, and wheeze symptoms with 100-ppm increases in dCO2 ranged from 1.1 to 1.2. These results suggest that increases in the ventilation rates per person among typical office buildings will, on average significantly reduce the prevalence of several SBS symptoms, up to 80%, even when these buildings meet the existing ASHRAE ventilation standards for office buildings. VOC sources were observed to play an role in direct association with mucous membrane and lower respiratory irritation, and possibly to be indirectly involved in indoor chemical reactions with ozone that produce irritating compounds associated with SBS symptoms. O-xylene, possibly emitted from furniture coatings was associated with shortness of breath (OR at the maximum concentration = 8, p < 0.05). The environmental sensitivities of a large subset of the office building population add to the overall risk of SBS symptoms (ORs ranging from 2 to above 11) within the buildings.

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