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How to Check the Air You Breathe in Your Workplace
The air you breathe in is, naturally, of vital importance to your survival. Humans are a hardy breed, though, and proof of that is in how much contaminated air most people can breathe without suffering immediate or short-term effects. But, just because people can sometimes breathe contaminated air with little visible trouble doesn't mean it really should be done frequently. If you suspect the air in your workplace is contaminated, there are ways to check on it.
Workplace Air Quality
Workplace air may be of an indoor variety typically found in offices and enclosed spaces like factories, or of a general outdoor variety. For indoor workers, the effects of contaminated or otherwise dirty air can be more intense or sudden because contaminant concentrations are typically higher than in outdoor environments. Even seemingly benign environments such as offices can have poor air quality. Workers may end up suffering from a variety of physical or respiratory related ailments due to poor workplace air quality.
Air Quality Testing
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration lists several methods for testing workplace air for contaminants, including detector tubes and highly specialized equipment. If you have a concern about your workplace's air quality, you should bring it to your employer's attention and request air quality testing. After all, most people concerned about the workplace air they're breathing in aren't trained industrial hygienists or safety specialists. If you're really worried about workplace air contamination, however, simple do-it-yourself air quality test kits are available.
DIY Test Kits
The most common DIY indoor air quality issues arise from allergens and molds, though lead, radon, formaldehyde and other contaminants can be present. DIY air quality test kits are available from home improvement stores and from many different vendor websites. Some DIY air quality test kits allow you to take a sample and analyze results much as you would with a swimming pool test kit. Other do-it-yourself air quality test kits require you to mail in samples for complete analysis and a return report.
Improving Workplace Air Quality
Factories and other industrial operations fall under stringent OSHA regulations for safety and workplace air quality. Air quality in an office or a nonindustrial workplace environment may not benefit from regular monitoring, but there are steps that can be taken to improve its air. Never block workplace air vents or grills, for one. Also, high humidity can lead to moisture and mold that can negatively affect workplace air quality. To control workplace moisture and mold, employers should always maintain reasonable temperature and humidity levels.
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Indoor Air Quality
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Indoor Air Quality Frequently Asked Questions
- Grainger: Indoor Air Quality Screening
- Bluepoint Environmental: Solutions to Indoor Air Pollution
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: Breathe Easy: Indoor Air Quality Tips
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration: OSHA Technical Manual - Sampling Instrumentation and Methods
Tony Guerra served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He also spent seven years as an airline operations manager. Guerra is a former realtor, real-estate salesperson, associate broker and real-estate education instructor. He holds a master's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.