Sick Building Syndrome: Is Your Elevator Making You Sick?

Your elevator system could be creating bacteria and indoor air pollution, learn how to prevent it from spreading within your building.

Imagine your building occupants complaining of symptoms such as running nose, headache, fatigue, and eye irritation.

When examined by doctors they can’t explain what the cause of the symptoms are.

This is what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported happened to over 55 employees in an office building in Washington D.C.

They later discovered there were building molds in the basement that were perpetuated by inadequate performance of ventilation, heating, and air conditioning (HVAC) units.

This was one of the first cases of sick building syndrome (SBS).

If you are a property manager it is extremely important that you understand what SBS is, it’s causes and how to prevent it from spreading throughout your building.

Sick building syndrome

Sick building syndrome’s definition according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), occurs when building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in the building although no specific illness or cause can be identified.

The World Health Organization (WHO) shows that up to 30% of remodeled and newly constructed buildings (schools, offices, apartments, hospitals, etc.) are at a higher risk of receiving complaints directed at their indoor air quality.

There are a variety of sick building syndrome symptoms, the most common include: headache, dizziness, nausea, eye, nose or throat irritation, dry cough, and dry or itching skin.

What most cases have in common is that the occupants’ symptoms dramatically decrease soon after leaving the building.

It is important to keep an eye out for these symptoms within your office or building.

Now that you are familiar with what SBS is and how to identify its symptoms, let’s take a look at some of the causes.

3 leading causes

1. Biological contaminants

Biological contaminants include specimens such as bacteria, viruses, pollen and mold. Although some of these contaminants come from the outside environment (i.e. people, air entering the building), they also develop from indoor moist environments where there is contained water. Your elevator pit is one of these places as it is highly susceptible to water intrusion and usually goes unnoticed, creating the perfect environment for these biological contaminants to grow.

2. Indoor air pollution

A majority of indoor air pollution begins from inside the building. Accumulating trash, dust and debris in an elevator pit and hoistway is a prime example. Your elevator’s hoistway, or the space where the elevator lift travels up and down, collects an abundance of dust and grime just by regular daily use. The same goes for your elevator pit, in addition to water. Overtime, this reduces your building’s indoor air quality.

3. Poor ventilation

When ventilation of air vents and air flow are blocked and your heating or air-conditioning systems malfunction, this increases the chance of SBS. If your elevator pit and hoistway are filled with bacteria, mold, dust, and trash regular elevator use alone carries this air from floor to floor and as the shaft opens and closes, spreading it to other parts of the building.

How to prevent sick building syndrome

Make sure you are taking the right steps to prevent SBS from developing or spreading within your property.

Go straight to the source.

Your elevator pit and hoistway are two areas of your building that could be a source for biological contaminants and spreading poor indoor air quality to the rest of your building.

Since elevator pits are highly susceptible to accumulating trash and water, this should be the first place that is inspected to decrease the chances of biological contaminants spreading.

Cleaning and waterproofing your elevator pit are two of the most effective ways to keep your elevator system, building and occupants safe.

These services lower your chance of liability and passenger injury occurring within your building.

When professionals perform a cleaning in your elevator pit, all trash, oily water, and dirt is removed and your pit is restored back to its original state.

Waterproofing your elevator pit however, takes things to the next level.

A dirty, unkept elevator pit create environment for biological contaminants.
TG Oil Services waterproofing transformation of a dirty elevator pit.

Waterproofing provides you with the peace of mind of having a protected elevator system that keeps passengers safe and lowers the chance of water damage.

TG Oil Services, an industry leading elevator pit waterproofing company offers a special 5-year warranty and FREE inspection on your elevator pit!


“Guys were professional, on time and left everything spotless. 5 year warranty on work. Double what the competition offered me. Definitely will use again.” – Valued client

Next on the source list: your elevator’s hoistway.

From the moment the elevator doors open,  passengers and building occupants are inhaling these unhealthy airborne particles that can negatively affect their health.

As the elevator lift continues traveling up or down floors, air is being sucked in, trapped, and then released throughout your whole building – multiple times a day.

Trust the professionals with over 25+ years of experience to provide you with exceptional hoistway services such as cleaning, wiping down, restoring and painting.

Don’t wait for your building and its occupants to show symptoms.

Let us take care of you so you have more time to take care of business.

Call now for a FREE inspection!


Written by: Erika Lorenzo

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