How Does Air Pollution In The Workplace Impact Health Of Employees?

Many of us associate air pollution with outside sources such as engine exhaust and smog. It is, therefore, a disturbing fact that indoor air pollution is just as dangerous. This is particularly relevant to the workplace, as employees can be exposed to potentially dangerous levels of airborne particles. The severe effects of air pollution on health cannot be overstated and it has been estimated that more than 37,500 premature deaths have already occurred across the United Kingdom due to poor air quality (1). This is why it is critical for management to appreciate the impact that such conditions can have upon their employees so that proactive changes can be made. How can air pollution damage your health and what are some of the dangers to be found within the workplace?

The Environmental Causes of Asthma

Many individuals believe that asthma stems from purely genetic roots. On the contrary, it has been found that certain substances within the air known as allergens can cause otherwise healthy workers to develop these very same symptoms. As the airways become more sensitive, breathing and respiratory problems can occur. Some common substances which can contribute to this situation include:

  • Spray paints
  • Wood dust
  • Cleaning agents
  • Fine particulate matter such as tiny particles of flour
  • Fluids used to treat metals
  • Acidic and alkaline substances

However, we are not only referring to exterior environments.

The Perception of Poor Air Quality Upon Employees

A recent survey conducted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has found that no fewer than 70 per cent of office professionals now believe that lower air quality standards within their workplace is having a negative impact upon their overall health. Not only is this disturbing from a long-term point of view, but workers are also likely to be less productive. When productivity levels fall, senior staff and entry-level employees will both suffer.

What Health Effects Can Occur?

Statistics alone are not nearly sufficient if we wish to fully understand how air pollution can damage your health from both short- and long-term points of view. As there have been numerous comprehensive studies carried out in the past, the evidence is quite conclusive. Some of the major concerns associated with poor air quality include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Chronic respiratory tract infections.
  • Certain types of lung cancer.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Emphysema.

It is just as important to mention that anyone with preexisting conditions could be placed even more at risk. This conclusion is just as valid for pregnant women as well as working mothers who may be nursing.

Substances that Play Important Roles

While the scenarios mentioned above are quite serious, it is slightly ironic that many are caused by substances which are regularly found throughout a typical office environment. Although these chemicals may appear relatively innocuous in and of themselves, there is no doubt that the associated health risks are very real. Some examples of office-related air pollutants include:

  • Airborne dust
  • Carpet fibres
  • Mould and spores (often found within kitchens and similarly moist environments)
  • Common cleaning products
  • Residues from printers and photocopiers
  • Building and construction-related substances
  • This is why office workers and management alike both need to be fully cognisant of the airborne hazards within their environment.

    A Potentially Dangerous Airborne Cocktail

    Certain situations can exacerbate the situations mentioned above. Some variables include humidity, levels of carbon monoxide, air stagnation, room temperature, the condition of HVAC filters, and even light levels will all play important roles. Offices that are known to contain (or are located near the presence of) volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are also at risk.

    The main concern is that management may be entirely unaware of such situations. As the symptoms of severe and chronic respiratory illnesses will often take years to fully develop, it is critical to ascertain the dangers that could very well be present.

    The Power of Stringent and Targeted Workplace Regulations

    The scenarios outlined above should be taken seriously by management and similar stakeholders. It is therefore important to obtain an air quality survey in order to determine what substances are present and if any actions need to be taken. The best way to combat indoor air pollution is to obtain a professional on-site assessment. The appropriate steps can thereafter be taken.

    How can air pollution damage your health within a commercial environment? The answers to this question should now be clear. If you would like to determine the air quality of your property, please contact a specialist at Air Quality Plan as soon as possible.


This website is using cookies More InformationThat's Fine