Improve Air Quality to Make Your Workplace Better for Employees With Asthma

 

October is National Indoor Air Quality Awareness Month and it’s the perfect time to address air quality in the workplace.

Asthma is a chronic condition that causes airways to become inflamed, making it hard to breathe. For adults, asthma is one of the leading causes of missing work. Adults miss more than 14 million days of work each year. Employers can improve work life for people with asthma by improving the air quality of the workplace.

Poor indoor or outdoor air quality can worsen asthma.

Small airborne particles cause serious air quality problems. They are found in haze, smoke and airborne dust. People with asthma are at greater risk from breathing in small particles. The particles can make asthma worse. Both long-term and short-term exposure can cause health problems. Some of these include reduced lung function and more asthma attacks.

The EPA reports outdoor air pollution levels using the Air Quality Index (AQI). AQI reports the level of ozone and other air pollutants. When the AQI is 101 or higher, it is dangerous for people with asthma. On these days, people with asthma should limit their time outdoors.

Indoor air pollution can be caused by:

Any work that causes small particles to enter the air may also create poor air quality in the workplace. For example, bakers may inhale small particles of flour in the air. This can affect their lungs.

To reduce work absences due to asthma, employers can improve air quality in the workplace by taking these steps:

  • Reduce excess moisture that may be causing mold growth
  • Increase or improve ventilation
  • Use HEPA air filters to remove small particles from the air
  • Create a policy for employees that discourages strong scents/odors (no heavy perfume, cologne, essential oils, potpourri, etc.)
  • Schedule cleaning and dusting to occur when the person with asthma is not around
  • Encourage employees to go tobacco smoke free (offer incentives!) and create a no-smoking zone around the workplace
  • Use appropriate pest control to reduce cockroach infestation
  • Use products that are Certified asthma & allergy friendly® 

Asthma and allergies are usually considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers and employees can work together to improve workplace air quality. Make accommodations based on the needs of each person with asthma and the situation.

By improving the air quality of your workplace, it will improve the health of your employees, especially those with asthma.


This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Medical Law Perspectives Reports.

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Melanie Carver is the Vice President of Community Health and Services at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. She leads the organization’s digital health communications and community building to support and educate people with allergies and asthma to empower them to improve their health.

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I’ve never thought of improving the air quality at my work because I don’t get the right support for anything so I didn’t bother asking. I don’t have food allergies but I have a lot of environmental allergies and I take Flonase, Zyrtec, Fluticasone, Eye drops, and Benadryl at night just to sleep. I’d probably be a great candidate for Xolair! I also have asthma. It’s been interesting to say the least!

I suffer from asthma and eczema both my dad had it but now he doesn't i do i try my best to stay away from grilling and smoke and perfumes and foods that i get allergies from like fish and wheat and oranges and more u should never take these easy u should always be a wear of what u eat and sleep and breathe so take care and i am only 14yrs old but take care

Our family suffers from asthma triggered by fragrances and other chemicals.  We are so happy you are informing people that wearing fragrance or products/clothing that emit fragrance are deadly for many people with asthma.  We cannot go anywhere where we cannot leave if someone were to come in the room with "fragrance" known to be toxic chemicals.

Most importantly, our hearts break for children who are trapped in a classsroom all day.  Many laundry detergents/fabric softners emit persistent chemicals that make life miserable for asthmatic students!  Please raise public awareness that NO smell should be the norm! 

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