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Indoor air pollution

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

You might also experience indoor air pollution in your workplace. Certain jobs might expose you to higher amounts of air pollutants than you’d experience at home.  

Common workplace air pollution 

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.  If you already have asthma, asthmagens can make your symptoms worse.  

Other risks of air pollution in the workplace include asbestos fibres, welding fumes and silica dust. Silica dust can 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 could be exposed to VOCs. Read more about VOCs.

Air pollution in an office

You may also experience indoor air pollution in office environments. Some people can be affected by perfumes or sprays that colleagues are wearing – it’s a good idea to let your colleagues know what can trigger your lung condition symptoms. 

Air conditioning can have both positive and negative effects on people with lung conditions. For example, some people with asthma have found that air conditioning helped to filter out airborne allergens – such as pollen and animal dander.  However, other people with lung conditions such as bronchiectasis find that the cold air triggers their symptoms, causing them to cough or become breathless. 

If air conditioning is an issue for you, speak to your employer about sitting away from it or switching it off. If your office has an air conditioning unit, it’s important that your employers have this serviced at least once a year.  

Your rights as an employee 

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 Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Find out more about air pollution in your workplace on the HSE’s website or at Breathe Freely.  

Download our indoor air pollution information (PDF, 504KB)

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