Consistent pattern of elevated symptoms in air-conditioned office buildings: a reanalysis of epidemiologic studies
Published studies of the relation between type of building ventilation system and work-related symptom prevalence in office workers have been contradictory. A reanalysis was performed of six studies meeting specific eligibility criteria, combining published data with unpublished information obtained from study authors. Five eligible studies were from the United Kingdom, and one was from Denmark. Standardized categories of building ventilation type were created to allow comparison of effects across studies. Within each study, prevalence odds ratios (PORs) were calculated for symptoms in each ventilation category relative to a baseline category of naturally ventilated buildings. Air-conditioned buildings were consistently associated with increased prevalence of work-related headache (POR = 1.3-3.1), lethargy (POR = 1.4-5.1), and upper respiratory/mucus membrane symptoms (POR = 1.3-4.8). Humidification was not a necessary factor for the higher symptom prevalence associated with air-conditioning. Mechanical ventilation without air-conditioning was not associated with higher symptom prevalence. The consistent associations found between type of building ventilation and reported symptom prevalence have potentially important public health and economic implications.