We know that exposure to poor air quality outdoors can cause a variety of health problems and can increase the risk of respiratory infections, heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, but what about indoor air quality? Poor indoor air quality has been linked to sick building syndrome, a term used to describe situations in which building occupants experience health issues that appear to be linked to time spent in a particular building, where no specific illness or cause can be identified, and these health issues often get better after you leave that building.
Air pollution has financial implications for the economy and in the UK it is responsible for six million sick days annually, as well as impacting employee wellbeing and productivity.
According to the NHS, symptoms of sick building syndrome can include: drowsiness and headaches; blocked or runny nose; dry, itchy skin; dry, sore eyes or throat; cough or wheezing; rashes; tiredness and difficulty concentrating.
Poor indoor air quality is generally caused by a lack of adequate ventilation or poorly maintained air conditioning systems. Sick building syndrome occurs more often in open plan offices and one of the problems is that unlike outdoors, where you can taste and smell it, you often can’t detect polluted air indoors.
It’s not uncommon for employees to be sitting in an office where the windows are kept shut all year round. Employers have a duty of care to improve air quality and protect employee health, but how can you enjoy a better quality of life with clean ambient air, whether at work or at home? Firstly, keep your home and workplace clean, free from mould, dust, allergens and pollutants that could spread through the air.
Consider using eco-friendly cleaning products that do not release harsh chemical compounds into the air and use air cleaning devices such as air purifiers that decrease the dwell time of virulent aerosols and significantly reduce the amount of pollen, inhalation allergens and other pollutants in the room air.
Many offices are now allowing essential oil diffusers to be used as long as the oils that will be diffused are approved by everyone in the office beforehand. The correct choice of oils can help people to focus and can reduce stress.
Observing proper ventilation is important and if it is possible, turn off the air conditioning system, open the windows and allow the outdoor air in.
Indoor plants are another excellent way to improve air quality in the office and at home without taking a lot of time and maintenance to keep them thriving. Not only good to look at, they help promote indoor air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the air.
Remember, breathe clean air and feel well.