Does the quality of indoor air affect your health?

Windows DaisyMany years ago, I worked in a 24-story building in the heart of downtown Boston.

My office was on the 16th floor.

Into my second year, I became and remained ill for several months with colds, sinus problems and an ear infection that would not go away despite several rounds of antibiotics. Even then, it occurred to me that being in a closed environment without access to fresh air could not be healthy. My lingering cold symptoms seemed to affirm that theory.

Today we know that outdoor air pollution isn’t the only air quality concern that exists. Indoor air quality (IAQ) and the level of pollutants affects the health, comfort and performance of building occupants in a measurable way – every minute of every day. Poor air quality can lead to a number of symptoms that mimic those of the flu or cold… congestion, headaches, sinus problems, physical and mental fatigue, allergic reactions, and eye and throat irritation can all be triggered by particles and chemicals in the air. These symptoms can be challenging to identify within the workplace.

According to a study by the Integrated Benefits Institute, a non-profit that focuses on healthy, productive employees, poor health costs the U.S. economy $576 billion a year. Of that amount, 39 percent, or $227 billion is from “lost productivity” from employee absenteeism due to illness or what researchers called “presenteeism,” when employees report to work but illness keeps them from performing at their best.

Not only is indoor air quality costly but it can also be deadly…the World Health Organization reported that air pollution, including poor indoor air quality, “contributes to approximately 2.6 million premature deaths each year.”

Check back for ideas on how indoor air quality can be improved.

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