Fresh air Featured

5:53am EDT January 30, 2003
If your employees suffer from chronic headaches, nausea, itchy eyes and unexplained fatigue, you should consider whether indoor air could be part of the problem.

Indoor air can harbor potentially hazardous materials which can cause a variety of health problems --some common, some serious -- that people don't usually associate with poor air quality. Research shows that indoor air can be more polluted than the outdoor air in the largest and most industrialized cities -- and people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors.

Poor indoor air quality can result from the use of common furnishings and materials. Pollutants include formaldehyde, carpet fumes, mold, mildew, bacteria, dead skin cells and dust mites. Common cleaning products can also degrade air quality if used improperly.

Formaldehyde, used as a preservative and adhesive in building products and furnishings, can trigger asthma attacks and damage the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. More mildly, it can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and cause coughing, fatigue, rashes, headaches and nausea.

Molds, mildew, fungi, bacteria and other biological pollutants are also a source of headaches, watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, coughing, fatigue and breathing difficulties. Products like aerosol sprays, cleansers, air fresheners and pesticides can also cause health problems -- and many offices use pesticides on indoor plants and foliage.

How can you determine if your facility's air quality is not what it should be? One way is if employees' chronic symptoms are relieved when they leave the office and develop when they return.

Another way is to place air purifiers in the building. If, a few hours after air is treated, symptoms lessen, indoor air quality is poor. Jill Price is director of corporate and community relations with JPrice HealthLink. Reach her at (614) 888-6247