ucts, and biological contaminants. VOCs may be emitted from construction materials such as wall panels, furniture, and office equipment (e.g., computers, printers, copiers, and fax machines). In the aircraft cabin, VOCs may come from internal sources (e.g., passengers, their belongings, aircraft component materials, cleaning materials) or enter the cabin in the bleed air (see Chapter 3). In addition to VOCs, contamination by bacteria, viruses, and fungi is another persistent challenge to indoor air quality. Office buildings provide many opportunities for microbial growth such as faulty or inadequately maintained air-circulation systems, and bioaerosols emitted by occupants. Chapter 4 discusses microbial contamination in aircraft.

Although office buildings and passenger cabins have very different external environments, the building environment may be a valuable research model for studying cabin air quality. In the sections below, some characteristics of building-related symptoms (BRS) that may provide information on aircraft cabin air quality are described.


In buildings, the combination of reduced ventilation and contaminant emissions can result in serious costly, unexpected, and often unexplained health complaints by building occupants. Those complaints may arise with the installation of new office equipment or when people move into a space. BRS is a term applied to a group of complaints from a substantial number of employees or residents. This term replaces the widely used term sick-building syndrome. BRS is used to describe nonspecific symptoms (e.g., eye, nose, or throat irritation, headache, fatigue, or other discomfort) that cannot be associated with a well-defined cause but that appear to be linked to time spent in particular buildings. Although poorly defined, BRS is distinct from building-related illnesses, which are diagnosable diseases that can be directly attributed to specific indoor exposures (Menzies et al. 1995; Hedge 1995; Hodgson 1995; Menzies and Bourbeau 1997). BRS can be uncomfortable, even disabling, but permanent sequelae are rare (Redlich et al. 1997). Although there are several physiological markers for eye and mucosal effects, objective physiological abnormalities generally are not found.

BRS is characterized by the following attributes:

  • Most complaints can be categorized as neurobehavioral disruption (e.g., impaired memory), sensory irritation (especially eye, nose, and throat),

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