Air pollution causes around 40,000 premature deaths per year in the UK, and levels of nitrogen dioxide have been illegally high since 2010 in the vast majority of urban areas in the UK. This takes a toll on people’s health, especially if they have conditions like asthma or allergies, which can be worsened by a polluted atmosphere, indoors or outside.
In its public health guidance, the government says, “Epidemiological studies have shown that long-term exposure to air pollution (over years or lifetimes) reduces life expectancy, mainly due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Short-term exposure (over hours or days) to elevated levels of air pollution can also cause a range of health impacts, including effects on lung function, exacerbation of asthma, increases in respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions and mortality.”
What Sorts of Air Pollution Exist?
There are particles – called particulates, of three different sizes: coarse particles PM10; fine particles PM2.5; and ultra-fine particles PM0.1. All of these can be motor fumes, dust, or caused by fires. There are nitrogen oxides NOx, and other pollutants like sulphur dioxide, ammonia, and volatile compounds given off by paint and other chemicals. Indoor pollution can include the above, and harmful compounds given off by cleaning products, hairsprays or air fresheners, and fire-retardant foam in furniture. All these can affect the health of both adults and children, although the young, old, pregnant women, and those with respiratory problems are the most vulnerable. Many of these pollutants are also implicated in climate change, so reducing them would benefit both people and the environment.
What are the Economic Effects?
The Environment Audit Committee has estimated that total health costs as a result of air pollution range between £8.5 billion and £20.2 billion a year. Poor air quality can also have an economic impact by reducing productivity among people of working age. DEFRA suggested that in 2012, poor air quality cost the economy £2.7 billion through productivity losses. Employees in unhealthy conditions will take days off due to illness, so it makes economic sense for business owners to take note of the dangers of workplace air pollution and ensure a beneficial environment in their enterprises.
Every employee in the UK is legally entitled to a healthy working environment, including a clean air workspace. Under numerous acts of legislation, an ongoing supply of fresh oxygen is required so the health and well-being of staff isn’t compromised on a long-term basis.
How to Protect Yourself against Indoor Air Pollution
Natural ventilation will provide a flow of air through windows or vents which
will assist in keeping the air in the building fresh and clean, expel stale air and reduce excessive heat. Pratley and Partners are experts in supplying both manual and automatic ventilation and control systems. A better environment will result in happier, more productive employees,
and may well reduce instances of staff sickness. Not only does it make sense to have good clean air in your workplace, it is a legal requirement; all
employers are expected to provide a healthy working environment for their employees.