Health Symptoms from Indoor Chemicals

woman with a headache

While some chemicals found in the workplace may have little effect on workers’ health, others may cause health problems. The presence of odor can cause people to suspect exposures to be harmful to their health. However, with few exceptions, chemical concentrations observed in the office work environment generally fall well below the occupational standards or recommended exposure limits used for industrial settings. Additionally, the presence of odors in a building does not always mean that there is an overexposure to chemicals by these existing occupational exposure standards. Some chemicals have very low odor thresholds, which means you can smell them at very low levels.

The degree to which a chemical exposure can affect health depends on:

  • how much of the chemical is present in the building / building air
  • how often a person comes into contact with the chemical
  • how harmful the chemical is to human health
  • how sensitive a person is to the chemical

Common symptoms reported by occupants in the building environment include:

  • Itchy, watery, or burning eyes
  • Skin irritations or rashes
  • Nose and throat irritation
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

While chemical concentrations are typically observed at low levels, severe symptoms are possible under extreme conditions. Severe symptoms include kidney and liver damage, and damage to the central nervous system.