In 2017, the World Bank ranked air pollution as the fifth largest global mortality risk factor, clearly underlining that good air quality is essential for our health and wellbeing. But that raises some questions: What is good air quality? What reduces air quality? What are the most dangerous pollutants? Are we familiar with harmful air pollution effects?
These questions are particularly important for business owners, as they are responsible for their employees’ health and wellbeing. Contrary to popular belief, indoor air pollution is just as common as the more well-known outdoor variety – and it can be even more damaging to your health.
The simplest definition of good air quality is that it does not harm our health or comfort in any way. However, there are a range of specific considerations which can affect air quality so let’s take a look at them in greater detail.
The air is full of particles, and they’re responsible for some of the most harmful air pollution effects. They are small and lightweight enough to remain suspended in the air for some time, and they are easily disturbed. Smaller particles are often more dangerous than larger particles, as they can get past the body’s natural defences and deep into the lungs. If inhaled, particulate matter can cause harmful respiratory and cardiovascular effects, so it’s important to capture particles at their source before they can be inhaled.
Particles can come from many sources, including cooking, but many of the most dangerous sources of airborne particles are in the workplace. Most industries involve some form of dust, but some of the most common are:
Metalworking such as welding creates fine metallic particles, which can be extremely harmful, and other hazards such as toxic fumes and gases.
Grinding processes create plenty of dust, and standard extraction methods aren’t always sufficient for removing the fine dust generated. Grinding stone can be particularly dangerous.
Cutting processes, even on softer materials such as wood, create significant amounts of dust. This dust builds up on surfaces and inhaling it can cause significant health issues.
Processes where a material is abraded down, including by sanding or polishing, generate fine dust. This can be particularly dangerous if the material includes silica, which forms extremely fine particles.
Gaseous chemicals are another common category of air pollution. Dangerous gases produced by domestic and industrial processes can be extremely harmful to our health. Most of the common gases we encounter are invisible. Some are even odourless and tasteless, making them just as difficult to identify as particles – and they can be equally harmful. Inhalation of dangerous gases is the cause of several harmful air pollution effects, including respiratory damage.
Many common cleaning chemicals, especially those used in factories, release toxic gases which can be harmful to employee health. Burning or melting processes also release harmful gases, and while respirators and ventilation are necessary, workplaces must go further to ensure their employees are safe. If possible, limit or eliminate the use of chemicals which release harmful gases. If they are absolutely necessary, take extra precautions to limit exposure.
We must also consider microscopic life when addressing the question of ‘what is good air quality.’ Microbes – including bacteria, fungi, and viruses – are commonly found in the air, and our bodies can protect us from low levels. However, higher levels of airborne microbes can lead to diseases and may also play a role in asthma and allergies.
Whereas you can limit exposure to gases and particles through cautious behaviour, microbes are living things and can grow into a problem without human involvement.
Finally, in addition to things that can be in the air, we must also consider the air itself. It is important to ensure that indoor spaces have proper ventilation to ensure that they are provided constantly with ‘fresh air’. Bringing in clean air prevents the build-up of excess carbon dioxide, which can negatively affect concentration.
Air temperature is also an important part of indoor air quality. Extreme temperatures are a health hazard, but even ‘safe’ temperatures that are too high or too low can be distracting and unpleasant.
To guarantee that your employees are breathing clean, safe air, and eliminate harmful air pollution effects on your business, you need an indoor air cleaning solution.
Fortunately, Zehnder Clean Air Solutions offer an affordable, effective solution to all of the problems we have listed here, ensuring that workers remain healthy and productive.