A set of symptoms has been described during the past two decades which has been called the 'sick building syndrome'. These symptoms include eye, nose, and throat irritation; headache; mental fatigue; and respiratory distress. It is likely that volatile organic compounds (VOC) present in synthetic materials used in homes and office buildings contribute to these symptoms. However, there have been few studies in which humans have been exposed to known amounts of VOC under carefully controlled conditions. In the study 14 subjects have been exposed to a mixture of VOC (25 mg/cu m total hydrocarbon) representative of what is found in new homes and office buildings. Since irritation of the nose and throat are symptoms often associated with the upper respiratory tract and may result from an inflammatory response in the upper airways, the authors have used nasal lavage to monitor neutrophil (PMN) influx into the nasal passages following exposure to VOC. The authors report statistically significant increases in PMNs both immediately after a four hour exposure to VOC, as well as 18 hours later.