Everyone knows that breathing hazardous substances or polluted air is bad for your health. But few seem to realise just how serious air pollution can be, and just how many hazardous substances can linger in the air we breathe.
Hazardous and Toxic Air Pollutants
The air can be full of hazardous and toxic air pollutants that are known or suspected to be harmful to health and the environment.
- Particulate matter
- Nitrogen oxides
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Sulphur dioxide
What Causes Hazardous Air Pollutants?
Many of these pollutants are caused by human activity. Particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, for example, are created by road traffic and by certain industrial and agricultural processes. Ammonia is released by the spreading of fertilisers, and by certain waste management processes. VOCs are found in many everyday cleaning and cosmetic products.
The Impact of Pollutants on Human Health
When inhaled, hazardous and toxic air pollutants can affect human health in a number of ways.
Particulate matter, for example, can be so small that, when inhaled, they enter the bloodstream. And once they’re in the bloodstream, they may end up lodged in the heart, lungs, brain, and other organs. So prolonged exposure to particulate matter can aggravate existing conditions, including asthma, allergies, and other respiratory conditions. Long-term exposure can lead to more serious, or even terminal, lung conditions.
Inhaling VOCs can also exacerbate allergies, asthma, and respiratory conditions, while causing headaches, nausea, and eyes, nose and throat irritation. VOCs can even react with certain other airborne chemicals to produce formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen.
How Widespread is Air Pollution?
According to the latest World Health organisation report, 99% of the world’s population live in areas where air pollution exceeds their guideline limits.
Air pollution can vary from place to place. We recently assessed the worst parts of the UK for air pollution, for example. The weather can also have an effect on air pollution. For instance, pollution levels may be higher in the colder months of the year.
Indoor Air Pollution
But air pollution can also affect indoor environments. High concentrations of VOCs can lead to “sick building syndrome”, whereby simply existing in a building can lead to a number of health problems.
Certain workplaces also carry unique air pollution risks. One recent report found that 25% of UK hospitals are located in areas with dangerously high levels of air pollution from traffic and industry. But inside hospitals you’ll find numerous potentially hazardous you won’t find in any other workplace, These might include Isoflurane, Sevoflurane, Penthrox, Entonox and inhalable and respirable dust.
This is Why Air Quality Monitoring is Important
Air pollution is all around us, indoors and outdoors. Even short-term exposure can lead to some serious health problems. Long-term exposure could prove fatal.
But many of the pollutants we’ve discussed in this post are colourless, odourless, or so small that they’re invisible to the human eye.
But with air quality monitoring, you can assess the levels of pollutants in your workplace. And once you understand the levels, and what might be causing them, you can act to improve the air quality for everyone.
Learn more about the work of an air quality consultant. You can also read our essential introduction to how the air quality monitoring procedure works.
Specialist Air Quality Monitoring Services For Hospitals and Healthcare
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) is a UK law requiring employers to prevent or reduce workers’ exposure to certain hazardous substances. We offer specialist workplace exposure monitoring to help you fulfil your COSHH obligations wherever staff are exposed to hazardous substances in your hospital.
We employ both continuous monitoring and personal sampling techniques to prepare a comprehensive report that includes detailed discussions and actionable recommendations based on our findings.
A hospital grade air purifier can help you quickly and thoroughly improve the air quality in any area of your hospital. We stock a range of hospital-grade Blueair HealthProtectTM air purifiers fitted with advanced HEPASilent technology that can catch 99.97% of harmful or toxic particles down to 0.1 microns.