Whether you work in an office, a warehouse, or a plant…chances are you don’t have much control over your air quality at work. Most employees don’t have a say in the workplace temperature, much less whether harmful chemicals are being properly vented! Here are a few things you CAN do to improve air quality in your work environment:
1.Take your breaks outside
Fresh, outdoor air is the healthiest air available so do your best to get outside and get plenty of it! You will find the freshest air near trees and plants so if your workplace has a nature trail you can be sure that a quick walk there will provide the best air quality. Of course there are some exceptions to being outside…if you work near a busy highway or anywhere that there is concentrated pollution outside you may be better off indoors.
2. Avoid air fresheners
Sharing working, eating, and bathroom quarters with many other people at work can cause some less than desirable smells. Using air fresheners is a common way for businesses to mask unpleasant odors but beware—the chemicals in fragrances and cleaners are not good for your respiratory system. Commercial air fresheners and cleaners are especially harsh! Try to avoid areas that have these chemicals hanging in the air and wait until the smell is less concentrated.
3. Deck your desk with air purifying items: plants, salt lamps, or bamboo charcoal satchets
If you have the freedom to decorate your own desk as you please, you should consider a few air-purifying additions. Indoor plants have been shown to remove chemicals from the air as well as producing oxygen. Want to get the best air purification? Here is a breakdown on plants from the NASA Clean Air Study. If you have room for 3 plants on your desk, the Areca Palm, the Mother-in-law’s Tongue, and the Money Plant have been proven to work together to provide a balanced air-purifying team!
A great way to purify AND bring light into your workspace is with a Himalayan salt lamp. These lamps are made of large chunks of natural Himalayan salt which is pinkish-orange due to the minerals it contains. When the lamp is turned on and the salt is heated up, moisture is drawn to the salt along with dust, allergens, pollen, and other impurities. The key is to leave the lamp on as much as possible and keep it close to where you will spend most of your time.
Bamboo charcoal sachets have great cleansing properties though they are less widely used than the first 2 options. The charcoal absorbs odors as well as chemicals so you should be able to “smell” it working (or notice the lack of other smells). These sachets are a great work solution since they don’t bother coworkers and require little upkeep.
4. Make supervisors aware if you suspect serious health issues
If you notice that you or your coworkers get headaches, fatigue, coughing, or respiratory issues while at work that go away when you aren’t in the building you may be seeing symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome. Strong chemical smells from manufacturing with no obvious or effective ventilation is also a cause for concern. Talk with your supervisor if you see situations that are producing poor indoor air quality to see if there are any improvements that can be made. If you can’t get anywhere with your supervisor but still feel like the problem needs to be addressed, you can contact OSHA and request an anonymous inspection.
Indoor air quality is just as much a part of a healthy lifestyle as a balanced diet and exercise so do not be bashful about making sure you are in the healthiest environment possible. Don’t assume that your workplace is safe or that your supervisors are aware of potentially harmful situations. Taking ownership and (politely) educating others about indoor air quality will pay off in the long run with less sickness and preventing long-term respiratory damage.