The goal of Air Quality Awareness Week, which is Monday, April 29-Friday, May 3 this year, is to promote events that increase air quality awareness and inspire people to take steps, big and small ones, to reduce their contribution to air pollution. Air pollution is not just outdoor motor vehicle and factory emissions, but inside as well, and frequently, indoor air can contain higher concentrations of hazardous pollutants than outdoor air.
So, let’s take a look at some of the top indoor air pollutants affecting workplace health and some tips on what you can do to help eliminate them.
Molds are all around us and are part of the natural environment, playing an important role in breaking down organic matter, such as decomposing organic matter. We would not have certain foods or even medicines without mold, but mold growth indoors can negatively affect a facility or workplace in many ways. Toxic mold can cause health problems such as itchy eyes, coughing, sneezing, skin rashes, headaches, fatigue, and can even cause respiratory issues including wheezing and asthma.
Mold is often times hidden – thriving in damp, dark places such as attics, crawl spaces, behind walls, in ceilings, underneath sinks and appliances and beneath wallpaper and carpet. To combat this indoor air pollutant, the facility should schedule regular mold inspections with a qualified mold specialist.
Dust and Allergens
Dust and indoor allergens are plentiful, and an estimated 50 million Americans are allergic to everything from dust and dander, to mold and mites. Allergy symptoms include sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes.
Best steps to help lessen indoor allergens is to have a clean office space, including frequent vacuuming (HEPA vacuuming can be even more effective). For the individual worker, cleaning around your work area on a regular basis with a wet cloth can significantly reduce the build-up of dust and allergens.
Cleaning Products and Chemicals
While cleaning your office is essential to cut down on dust and indoor allergens, the cleaning products being used often contain harsh chemicals that can irritate your skin and affect your breathing. In many cases, office cleaning happens when most of the staff is not at work, but if you are present or if you are the one performing the cleaning, you may want to wear protective eyewear and gloves.
Nowadays smoking is not allowed in most office buildings, but that doesn’t mean you won’t run into cigarette smoke while walking in and out of the buildings as people take their smoking breaks. You may also be exposed to different types of smoke that can negatively affect your health, including working with equipment that can emit carbon monoxide and other toxic agents. In such situations, proper ventilation is necessary.
Everyone deserves to live and work in a healthy environment, which definitely includes safe breathing air. Airborne irritants and toxic chemicals can certainly affect employees’ health and their productivity. It is essential for everyone to be aware of the types of indoor air pollutants that may be present and take steps to combat their negative effects.