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By Jackie Edwards 

September 28, 2017

You may think that being inside the office protects you from the air pollution of the busy streets outside, but the truth is the air inside is likely to be significantly worse. The products used to clean your place of work contain chemicals that are harmful when inhaled causing some serious health and safety issues. If you work in a small, enclosed space, there is nowhere for these chemicals to escape. Over 20 million people in the USA suffer from asthma, which is both caused and worsened by air pollution. Long term exposure to low quality air can even cause cancer, so this it is a major health and safety risk. Read on to find out why indoor air pollution is such a problem and what steps you can take against it.

How Dirty is the Air In Your Office?

All places of work vary. You may have a job that involves being outside or you may be lucky enough to have a large, airy office with plenty of ventilation and large windows. The statistics are worrying, however. Americans spend 93% of their time indoors. This includes being at home, sitting in a vehicle and being at work. If you’re spending a third of your day in the office, it is worth considering the air quality.

Since the 1950s, new buildings have been built to be as airtight as possible. This is to better regulate temperature, reducing the amount of heating or air conditioning required. While this decreases the amount of fuel consumption and therefore pollutes the air less, it also stops harmful chemicals that are trapped inside from escaping. This is why the air inside is dirtier than outside. So don’t think that the air you breathe must be cleaner because you’re in a modern building - the opposite may be true.

If you are in a small office, with small windows and little ventilation, then the density of harmful particulates will be worse. If you have a kitchen in your place of work, then this will further contribute to dirty air.

What Can Be Done?

Firstly, invest in ventilation. The rush to build energy efficient airtight buildings was unfortunately not met with increased ventilation. Since poor air pollution can limit oxygen flow to the brain and therefore make workers feel fatigued and unproductive, your boss should be willing to install necessary ventilation.

Aim to keep as many harmful chemicals out of the office as possible. Leave the deodorant at home or reapply it outside, rather than at your desk. Also do your cooking at home and bring it in a packed lunch, rather than using the cooking equipment at work. When cleaning is taking place, open all the windows for at least an hour to let all the chemicals escape. Finally, spend as much time as possible out of the office. Take your lunch break outside and enjoy the fresh, clean air.

Indoor air pollution is a much overlooked part of the climate crisis, yet it is the biggest killer. While it is mostly a problem for developing countries, it can have its effects on anyone who spends time indoors. If you spend a large amount of time in the workplace, use these tips to limit the harmful effects of air pollution.