Time-course functions for symptoms of the sick building syndrome were derived from 66 healthy males exposed to clean air and a volatile organic compound (VOC) mixture in separate sessions. The mixture contained 22 VOCs (25 mg/cu m total concentration) commonly found air-borne in new or recently renovated buildings. Subjects rated the intensity of perceived irritation, odor, and other variables before and twice during 2.75 hr exposure periods. Eye and throat irritation, headache, and drowsiness increased or showed no evidence of adaptation during exposure, whereas odor intensity decreased by 30%. These results indicate that irritation intensity and other symptoms are not related in any simple fashion to odor intensity, suggesting that the symptoms may not be a psychosomatic response to detection of an aversive odor. Instead, subthreshold levels of VOCs may interact additively or hyperadditively and stimulate trigeminal nerve receptors.