A cross-sectional clinical epidemiological study was carried out among 169 office workers in four Copenhagen town halls with different prevalences of the sick building syndrome. The results were compared with those in 112 subjects randomly selected from the general population. Biomicroscopic eye manifestations, such as premature break-up of the precorneal tear film, absence of foam at the inner eye canthus and epithelial damage of the bulbar conjunctiva, were investigated together with self-reported eye complaints. Although intercorrelated, the objective eye manifestations independently were statistically associated with self-reported eye complaints in office workers. The prevalence of the objective eye manifestations was significantly elevated in office workers compared with the general population and most pronounced for the buildings with a high prevalence of the sick building syndrome (P < 0.001). In the general population, subjects with a non-industrial occupation, including office workers, had a significantly higher prevalence of objective eye manifestations than those with an industrial occupation (P = 0.03), but the prevalence was still significantly lower than that among the office workers in buildings with a high prevalence of the sick building syndrome (P<0.001). Since possible confounders were found not to explain the difference in prevalence of objective eye manifestations and complaints among the two populations, it is concluded that the office environment (buildings and/or type of office work) promotes these objective changes accompanied by self-reported complaints.
Sick building syndrome Eye irritation Biomicroscopically dry eyes