Occupational and Environmental Health and Your Building’s Indoor Air Quality

If the air in your building is not safe to breathe, it can lead to a myriad of occupational and environmental health problems. Pollutants, chemicals, gases, and microbes can cause allergies, asthma and other respiratory illnesses, sore throats, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and irritated eyes, as well as adverse long-term respiratory health problems.

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Radon and Ozone

Radon and Ozone are two of the most common indoor air pollutants that are concerns for respiratory health in relation to maintaining good indoor air quality. Given enough exposure, both radon and ozone have verifiable negative health effects.

Radon is a colorless, naturally occurring gas that can lead to lung cancer if occupants breathe it over time. Mostly found inside of schools and workplaces, it enters facilities through cracks and holes in the foundation before getting trapped indoors. Most radon issues can be remedied by increasing the rate of air exchanges in a given building.  

While stratospheric ozone protects the Earth’s surface from harmful UV radiation, ground-level ozone can lead to several adverse health effects when inhaled. Ground-level ozone is created when VOCs and nitrogen oxide experience a photochemical reaction. When inhaled, Ozone can chemically react with the numerous biological molecules in the respiratory tract, leading to airway inflammation, respiratory symptoms, and decreased lung function.  

VOCs and Formaldehyde

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted from liquids and solids that contain various chemicals and may have adverse short- and long-term effects on human health. Thousands of every day products can emit VOCs indoors, causing many of them to be up to ten times higher than outdoors.  Many volatile organic compounds are found within the materials and chemicals that are used in manufacturing of things like paints, refrigerants and pharmaceuticals. 

Formaldehyde is a colorless and flammable chemical found in many everyday building materials, such as particleboard, plywood, fiberboard, glues, adhesives, paper product coatings, and select insulation materials.  

While this chemical is often present in indoor and outdoor air at very low levels, materials containing it can release gas or vapors into the air. Exposure usually occurs by inhaling formaldehyde gas or vapors in the air, but effects range based on method of exposure. For instance, ingestion of just 30 mL of formaldehyde solution can cause severe corrosive damage to the esophagus and gastrointestinal tracts.

Some examples of items that may contain biological pollutants include paints, varnishes, cleaning and disinfecting products, degreasers, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, air fresheners, pesticides, office equipment, glues, adhesives, furnishings, and more.  Because many of these items are everyday items, limiting your exposure to these irritants is important.

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The Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

The long-term effects of poor indoor air quality can lead to conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Occupants with pre-existing conditions may be even more susceptible to the negative health effects of poor IAQ.

For instance, environmental exposures in the workplace to dust and dust mites can contribute to increased incidences of asthma in adults. Additionally, mold growth can further exacerbate conditions such as asthma. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased focus on contributions of the built environment to human health.

Such impacts on occupant health can costs companies billions in productivity each year due to mental fatigue and absenteeism.

Lawsuits for failing to provide your occupants with a safe and healthy environment are costly and may not be covered by your general liability insurance. Acts of negligence, such as omitting information, incorrectly reporting the concentration levels of pollutants, or failing to act on complaints can increase your liability.

Businesses that fail to provide a safe and healthy indoor environment for their occupants also run the risk of lost revenue with negative PR, employee turnover,

Have another question about Indoor Air Quality? Contact us today at 866-470-0827 or email your question to info@ecogroupusa.com!