Indoor air pollution

What are the risks of indoor air pollution in my workplace?

Indoor air pollution isn’t only a problem in your home, it can also be a problem in the workplace. In some jobs, you might be exposed to much higher concentrations of certain air pollutants than you would be at home or you may come into contact with more dangerous substances than you would find at home.

At work you could be exposed to substances that can make your airways more sensitive, called asthmagens. Asthmagens are substances that can lead to the development of asthma. They include certain vehicle spray paints, dust from flour, wood dust, metal working fluids and cleaning agents. Exposure to these substances can lead to asthma or make your asthma worse.

Other risks of air pollution in the workplace include asbestos fibres, welding fumes and silica dust. We have information on asbestos. Silica dust can also be dangerous and is found in products such as brick and concrete. Welding is a common industrial process that releases fine particulate matter and toxic gases.

If you work as a cleaner, you will also be exposed to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). One study recently found that women who work as cleaners have increased decline in their lung function.

You can read more about VOCs and how they can affect you. 

How do I protect myself from indoor air pollution in my workplace?

You have the right to work in a place where the risks to your health and safety are properly controlled by your employer.

Workplace regulations are there to protect you from potentially harmful pollutants. The company that you work for should do a risk assessment to identify what could harm you and if necessary how they must control these risks. If you are worried about the health and safety at your place of work, talk to your employer, supervisor or health and safety representative. If they can’t address your concerns, you can report the problem to the regulator.

Find out more about air pollution in your workplace on the Health and Safety Executive’s website or at Breathe Freely

If you have concerns or need advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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Download our indoor air pollution information (302KB, PDF)

Last medically reviewed: September 2018. Due for review: September 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.