Last updated: Mar 02, 2016

Whats in your home office or cube? Eye and lung irritants from copy-machine toners and fax-machine ink cartridges, in addition to gases from permanent markers, vapors from pesticides, and formaldehyde fumes from particleboard furniture. In the short term, these products—particularly in tightly sealed office buildings—can cause sick-building syndrome, a real illness thats characterized by symptoms like headache and fatigue, says David O. Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, State University of New York. “Sick-building syndrome is the result of inadequate ventilation,” he explains, so if there are no windows in your office, ask a manager to have air exchanges and filters turned on before the workday begins. Your request might fall on deaf ears, but it could also spur change. Why bother? Some of the compounds found in offices are neurotoxic, which means they can cause tingling or numbness and permanent damage to the nervous system over the long term, Carpenter says.


At your office, avoid printers and copiers in your immediate work space and take 10-minute walks outside during the day to get fresh air. At home, keep printers and fax machines out of the bedroom, crack windows, and add chemical-removing plants. Also, swap pressed-wood furniture for the real deal; more expensive, yes, but worth it.