How can we improve air quality in the workplace?
The impact of outdoor air pollution has been addressed more and more by media and the Government due to the effects that it can have on wellbeing. Just last month, a study was published nationally which showed that virtually every home in the UK is subjected to air pollution from outside sources that are above World Health Organization guidelines1.
But while we may be aware of the high levels of polluted air we can be exposed to from outdoor sources; how much do we know about the air we are breathing indoors – especially in the workplace? This Clean Air Day, Dyson for Business wants to shine a light on the importance of creating healthy workspaces where indoor air quality is at the top of the day’s agenda.
Indoor air pollution in workplaces
Air pollution inside buildings can come from a range of sources. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), for example, can be emitted from building materials, cleaning products, and certain types of paint. Therefore, simple activities like daily cleaning or general refurbishment in the workplace can emit invisible particles which could impact staff wellbeing.
Another example of this is formaldehyde, a colourless gas pollutant released by furniture and wooden products, which use formaldehyde-based resins. Formaldehyde is commonly associated with new or refurbished buildings or furniture, and as it is 500 times smaller than 0.1 microns, it is particularly difficult to capture2. It can pollute continuously through off-gassing – a process where objects release particles that were previously trapped in a liquid or solid form – which may lead to increased exposure if uncaptured.
The impact on wellbeing
A seemingly obvious solution to getting rid of particles like VOCs is opening the windows or turning on air conditioning to increase ventilation. However, this is dependent on whether there is good air quality outdoors. In busy cities, with pollutants from passing vehicles infiltrating the outside air, opening windows can create the reverse of the desired effect.
Research indicates that occupants showed better cognitive performance and strategic reasoning when being in buildings with better air quality3. For decision-making and rational thinking, feeling comfortable and alert in the workplace is critical. With that said, hay fever and allergies are often overlooked and with pollen counts typically increasing in the summer months, opening windows or recirculating unfiltered air can worsen symptoms for staff suffering with hay fever, which can make them feel uncomfortable and therefore hinder performance.
Reducing effect with air purification
The Dyson HEPA Cool Formaldehyde helps to capture 99.95% of particles as small as 0.1 microns from the air through its 360° HEPA H13 filter – this includes formaldehyde and allergens4. Thanks to the powerful circulation it generates, over 290 litres of purified air is projected throughout the room per second. This means that particles can be captured from the air rather than recirculated, which could benefit the wellbeing of the users. Although there is not a universal solution to improving air purity in the workplace, new technologies like air purifiers can help reduce pollution levels and minimise their potential impact.
3 Harvard Library, Associations of Cognitive Function Scores https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/27662232/4892924.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
4 Whole machine tested by independent third-party laboratory Airmid (Ireland) in 28.5m³ test chamber pre-conditioned to 20±3C and RH 50±5%. Influenza A (H1N1) aerosolised in the test chamber and airborne concentration observed for the duration of 60 minutes under maximum Fan speed. Achieved 99% efficacy but real-life efficacy may differ depending on actual environment and Fan speed. Tested on Influenza A (H1N1) only.