We spend a significant part of our lives at work, so breathing clean air in our factories and warehouses is important for our health − just like having fresh air outdoors. And now that global pandemics could become an increasing problem, it’s even more important to think about the quality of the air we breathe.
But did you know that air quality in industrial surroundings is typically no better than outside? In fact the alarming truth is that often it might be worse.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air quality at work can have two to five times more pollutants than in the open air. In some extreme cases it can be up to 100 times worse. One reason for this is that wherever goods are produced, processed or stored, there are likely to be indoor air pollutants.
Particulate matter (PM) consists of tiny airborne particles, or dust, of different sizes, and can be made up of a wide range of materials.
Typically found where there are high concentrations of traffic pollution, it can be blown indoors and become trapped.
Chemicals that can be found in cleaning products, paints, varnishes and glues. VOCs have been linked to nausea, fatigue, headaches and cancer.
Sources include the burning of fossil fuels, smelting and the conversion of wood pulp to paper.
Found in poorly ventilated spaces where there is a lot of damp in the air.
One of the most common VOCs and very carcinogenic. Found in adhesives in wood products such as MDF, carpets, furniture, paints and varnishes.
There are legal limits to indoor air pollutants in the workplace, but they are nowhere near as strict as those for outdoor air. The more scientists learn about the dangers of indoor air pollution, the more the regulations seem out of date − and could even result in unnecessary risks to workers’ health. In fact the World Health Organization (WHO) says we should have better laws controlling the air we breathe at work.