Is Work Making You Sick?
Indoor Air Quality in the Workplace
If you're experiencing fatigue, headaches, difficulty breathing or a surge in your asthma symptoms while you're at work, you might be in the really uncomfortable position of your job actually making you sick. Not ideal, right? Well, fortunately, there are some things that you can do if you can identify what the triggers are and get help. Read on to see some of the classic categories polluted air apply to you.
A Real Life Example
We recently had a customer that had been to the doctor nearly a dozen times to treat her health issue! Although she was prescribed anti-histamines, steroids, antibiotics, nothing was leading to a lasting improvement.
When she called us, she was skeptical that her home air quality was the problem, so we proposed an alternate solution. She used a Dylos air quality monitor to determine whether dirty air was the cause of her undiagnosed sickness. When we helped her analyze the data she collected at home and at the office, we were shocked to find out that her home air was clean, but the air at her office was filthy.
A little digging uncovered the central air system at her place of work as the problem. 3-4 times a day it was turning on to spew out years of accumulated dust, debris and pollutants. It turns out the ducts had not been cleaned in years.
Armed with this knowledge, our customer decided to take an air purifier to work, pointing it directly at herself. To her delight, her symptoms declined dramatically. In addition to monitoring particles in your home or at work, you can also learn what’s in your air by using a test kit.
Our takeaway? It pays to know what's in your air and where. If you want to do a little discovery of your own, our monitors and test kits are a great place to start. And as always, feel free to call, chat or email if you need help understanding the results!
Sick Building Syndrome
Stachybotrys Chartarum. That's a big name for a very tiny, very toxic fungus that can cause difficulty breathing, headaches, and fatigue and commonly grows in homes and buildings that have sustained water damage. Also called black mold, s. chartarum is a serious issue that calls for serious attention. However, common mildews and molds can easily be mistaken for black mold as well, so do some further research before you get too worried!
A word of caution: Air purifiers are not a good solution for a full-blown black mold infestations.
Things You Can Do:
- Test it! Our mold test kit is one place you can begin.
- Talk with your building manager. Black mold infestation is not something that can be dealt with through use of an air purifier or using normal cleaning methods and should be addressed by professionals.
- Check with local authorities. With sick building syndrome we would always recommend that you look to your local public health department, the CDC or the EPA for advice.
Occupational asthma, quite simply, is asthma contracted by exposure to one of any number of pollutants while "on the job". Estimates from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology suspect that approximately 15% of cases of adult asthma are caused by exposure to pollutants in the workplace.
Things You Can Do:
- Test it! Our monitors and test kits are a good place to start if you're not sure if there is an issue triggering you at work.
- Know your triggers. The first step of preventing asthma triggers is knowing what your personal triggers are. Visit your allergist and get a full list of what you are sensitive to if you suspect something at work is an issue.
- Know what's legal. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does have legal limits set for exposure to some allergens, but not all. Your workplace may be required to monitor and remediate in some cases.
- Use an air purifier. In many cases, a good air purifier can help significantly reduce the amount of irritants that you're exposed to. Make sure you consider the square footage that you are working in to get a unit that is powerful enough!
Volatile Organic Compounds
VOC exposure is most often associated with an odor; however there are many VOCs that produce no noticeable odor! With thousands of different VOCs produced and used in our daily lives, things like new paint, cleaning products, new furniture and even dry cleaned clothing might be building up in your system.
Things You Can Do:
- Test it! With VOCs, also we a have a test kit that can help you know what's really in your air.
- Know your VOCs. Did you know that printers and copiers can be a significant air pollution issue? It's not obvious, so we've compiled a list of common sources of VOCs that will help you zero in on things in your environment that might be issues.
- Use an air purifier. Just like asthma, VOCs are something you can effectively target with the right air purifier. The best air purifiers for VOCs use activated carbon with acts like a sponge and removes VOCs before they can get to your lungs. Once again, always pay attention to the size of the area you are trying to cover for the best results.
Some final thoughts
For both occupational asthma and VOC concerns it pays to be proactive and to target the sources of contamination. It's always a good idea to talk to your healthcare providers to confirm any suspicions you might have about what you are experiencing. We always encourage people to know as much about their personal situation as they can, because awareness is definitely the first step to better breathing.
We all want to work in clean, safe environments, so the work you do to see that happen will be a huge benefit not only to your own life, but the lives of your co-workers!
Have more questions? Our dedicated team of air experts are only a call, chat (bottom right of your screen) or email away.
Call us Toll Free at: (800) 334-1494