Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when someone says “air pollution” is the image of car exhaust filling the streets, industrial chimneys pumping smoke into the air, and other forms of outdoor air pollution. What most people don’t realize is that there is a more dangerous type of air pollution – indoor air pollution.
Most people spend more than 80% of their time indoors, and for that reason experts believe more health issues occur due to indoor air pollution than to outdoor. It might surprise you that indoor air pollution levels are estimated to be 25% to 62% greater than outdoor levels!
So why these major differences between indoor and outdoor air? There are many reasons, here are some:
- Concentration: Due to inadequate ventilation combined with high temperature and humidity levels, indoor air has a higher concentration of gases and particles compared to outdoor air. This means that indoor air can hold a higher concentration of gases.
- Significance: Because of this heightened concentration, dangerous pollutants tend to occur indoors. While in the outdoors most of these gases get diluted or minimized quickly.
- Air exchange: When outdoor air finds a chance to get indoor, it brings with it harmful gases.
The thought of indoor air being more polluted than the outdoors is hard to imagine for many people. So what are the sources of this pollution? There are many: tobacco smoke, cooking appliances, paints, and furniture to say the least .
These sources can be split in to indoor environment related such as inadequate temperature, humidity, lighting, excessive noise, etc, and indoor air contaminants related such as chemicals, dust, molds, or fungi, bacteria, gases and others. A very important thing to watch out for is having an adequate ventilation. Lack of a proper air exchange means will lead to an increase in the concentration of harmful gases inside your building. So make sure you always have a good airing system – even if by just opening the windows!
Why is indoor air such a big deal? Mainly because it relates to your health. Ever wondered why you get unexplained headaches only when you’re in the office? Or why you just can’t seem to stop sneezing when you’re there? No, it’s not because you’re allergic to work, the reason is probably poor indoor air quality (IAQ).
IAQ doesn’t just affect employees’ health, it also impacts productivity. A recent study by Bjarne Olsen, chairperson for the International Center for Indoor Environment and Enegry (ICIEE) in Denmark, indicated that improved thermal comfort, reduction in indoor pollutants, and enhanced ventilation rates and effectiveness can increase productivity by 5 to 10 percent!
Another study conducted in California indicates an 8 to 25 percent reduction in asthma level with a $1 to $4 billion of savings nationwide. While studies determining the exact relation between IAQ and employee productivity are still premature, the initial findings indicate a very a strong relation. A simple rule to keep in mind for employers looking to get the best out of their staff is “A healthy employee is a productive employee.”
So how do you know if your indoor air needs attention? Here are some clues. While not all may occur, the presence of some may indicate poor IAQ:
- You feel sick at the office and better when you’re away.
- You’ve spotted some extra dirt around the cooling system.
- Air isn’t circulating properly in the office.
- Perhaps you spotted mold in the office.
- Your IAQ is humid resulting in condensation.
- You’ve experienced some health issues right after a recent remodeling or renovating.
- You smell old stuffy air.
- There is an odor in the air you just can’t seem to get rid of.
Now that you know why indoor air quality is a big deal, and you have enough signs to tell whether or not you need to make some improvements, what can you do to make your office environment healthier? Here are a few easy to apply tips:
- A smoking policy! And not just inside the building, but also within 100 feet of the building.
- Proper disposal of garbage in a way that it is kept away from work area.
- Avoid mold building up by quickly dealing with water spills and leaks.
- Use an air purifier!
- Don’t block windows with things like files and other objects. This affects the circulation of air.
- Always insure there is a way of fresh air to get in.
- If you’re considering more advanced techniques consider getting professional help.
For all businesses, especially startups, creating a culture where employees can happily work long hours starts with creating a good environment. Following these tips will help ensure that employees stay healthy, happy, and productive.
Note: This article was originally published in Wamda