Maintaining health and safety is the responsibility of employers, but some health risks may be less apparent than others. Not only is indoor air quality an ‘invisible’ culprit, it can deceive tests. Through a combination of toxins and pollutants, tests may not indicate any notable levels but combined, can lead to serious health issues.
Office air quality is threatened by a limited amount of fresh air, poor ventilation, the presence of toxic substances, and outdoor pollutants. Furthermore, the structure of the buildings we work within, designed for cost/energy reduction, are sealed in such a way that they have been known to promote poor air quality. Here are some factors that contribute to poor indoor air quality.
Since the 1970s, building design has focused on saving money through limitation of energy usage and air conditioning. Buildings are made airtight which means air is filtered out less frequently.
Excessive moisture in the office can promote the growth of toxic organisms including mould, mildew and bacteria. The moisture is typically due to issues with plumbing, humidity control, and condensation. These microorganisms can be responsible for both allergy and asthma symptoms.
Volatile Organic Compounds
These are compounds from chemicals that can have serious effects on your employees’ health (1). They come from paint, building materials, aerosol, perfumes and formaldehyde. Exposure can lead to the damage of organs and the central nervous system (2).
Dust and pollen, while not toxic, can result in a range of health effects from allergy symptoms to cancer and poor lung function.
In Canada, cigarettes are banned from the workplace to maintain the health and safety of employees. Despite this, second-hand smoke can be circulated into the office through the intake air system. The effects of secondhand smoke are insurmountable and should be taken seriously by employers.
Health symptoms can emerge when poor air quality has not been properly addressed. Symptoms can include; sweating, allergies, coughing, sneezing, nausea, fatigue and headaches. With prolonged exposure, there is also a risk of chronic diseases. For example:
This type of pneumonia is caused by water or moisture in the office which contains bacteria.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
This is a result of multiple chemicals within the office’s air resulting in problems breathing, eye irritation and fatigue.
Indoor air quality is a serious issue, especially when employees are exposed to toxins for a prolonged period. Solutions include proper ventilation, plumbing and air quality solutions such as The Breeze.