Air pollution at work, an aggravating factor in asthma
Indoor air pollution is often underestimated. Indeed, indoor air is on average 5 to 7 times more polluted than outdoor air according to a study by the OQAI. And mainly in our workplace where we spend an average of 99,117 hours throughout our lives (i.e. 14.5 years), which can affect the productivity, health and well-being of employees. What are the pollutants? What are the risks? How can they be prevented?
Reading time: 4 minutes
What is asthma?
What are the sources of indoor air pollution?
What are the risks of poor air quality in the office?
The effects of good air quality at work
How to improve air quality at work?
1/ ASTHMA: WHAT IS IT?
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease caused by inflammation of the bronchial tubes, linked to the interaction between genetic and environmental factors. It is manifested by respiratory discomfort, a feeling of tightness in the chest, sleep disturbances caused by coughing, wheezing or noisy breathing… These symptoms may be occasional, occur during physical effort or be permanent.
It is estimated that about 900 000 people are asthmatic in France. Asthma is the 1st chronic disease of the child, affecting 10% to 14% of them. Occupational asthma is caused by one or more factors present in the workplace.
Some key figures :
2/ WHAT ARE THE SOURCES OF INDOOR AIR POLLUTION?
On average, we spend 90% of our time in closed environments and no less than 7 to 10 hours a day in the office where we can be exposed to many pollutants. The indoor environment plays an essential role in our general well-being and is capable of influencing our health positively or negatively!
Asthma symptoms can worsen when a person is indoors in the presence of pollutants such as :
Chemical pollutants can be volatile organic compounds (VOC), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), phthalates, etc.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are pollutants frequently found in the office via the following emission sources:
- Building materials,
- Computers, printers and photocopiers
- Office furniture (except raw wood)
- Floor coverings
Biological pollutants include molds, allergens from pollens, dust mites and pets.
Physical pollution includes particles and fibers (asbestos, artificial mineral fibers) that can be emitted by combustion (tobacco, heaters, room fragrances…)
3/ WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF AIR POLLUTION AT WORK?
Poor indoor air quality can lead to health problems for employees. The effects can vary depending on the duration of exposure, age, gender, sensitivity and health of the exposed persons.
It can lead to the emergence of symptoms such as: headaches, fatigue, irritation of the eyes, nose, throat or skin, dizziness, allergic manifestations or asthma. But depending on the pollutants, the risks to the employee’s health in the long term can be significant and can lead to :
|Heart and lung diseases||Anxiety||Hypertension||Cancers|
4/ THE EFFECTS OF GOOD AIR QUALITY AT WORK
Managers must take into consideration the atmosphere in which their employees work and they are even required to do so by the Labour Code. It is important to know that a good indoor air quality has positive effects in companies.
In addition to being in conformity with the policy of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), worrying about indoor air quality in the workplace is also optimizing the work environment and acting positively on the Quality of Life at Work (QWL).
An improvement of the indoor air quality is accompanied by a :
5/ HOW TO IMPROVE AIR QUALITY AT WORK?
To avoid air pollution at work, here are some simple solutions to implement:
- Air the office regularly (if possible), 10 to 15 minutes, twice a day. Airing out the interior will help to expel humidity and avoid the concentration of pollutants.
- Pay attention to the ventilations and think of maintaining them well
- Choose “healthy” cleaning products labeled A+ (products that emit the least amount of volatile substances)
- Monitor the appearance of mold. The spores and toxic substances emitted by molds are indeed the cause of irritation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract and allergies. Molds can cause asthma, rhinitis and bronchitis.
- Choose furniture with care because it is one of the sources of emissions of substances of concern in indoor environments. Give preference to furniture that meets the following labels: NF Environnement Ameublement or European Ecolabel Wooden furniture, preferably solid wood furniture.
- Ban textile coverings such as carpets, fabric rugs, especially near water points (risk of mold development).
- Prefer wet cleaning of floors and furniture to avoid re-shedding dust.
- Isolate, if possible, photocopiers, printers, fax machines within the work rooms (because they can generate dangerous substances such as ozone, formaldehyde which require a more accentuated ventilation)
- Do not use aerosol cans, air fresheners, room fragrances, essential oil diffusers even when the room is unoccupied because they contribute more to indoor pollution than to its reduction. With combustion, some pollutants are released (benzene and formaldehyde) for example and without a good ventilation, they can damage your respiratory tracts.
HOW CAN MEERSENS HELP YOU?
Meersens is a positive impact environmental health company, mobilized to create a sustainable future, enabling environmental risk mitigation and positively contributing to the health and well-being of stakeholders – by providing customized environmental monitoring and prevention.
Meersens provides 360°, real-time, historical and predictive multi-pollutant monitoring and insight for any location with high accuracy, enabling you to mitigate risks and make better decisions.