Indoor Air Pollution: A Cause for Concern?

After decades of dire news about acid rain, second-hand smoke, industrial emissions, greenhouse gases, and holes in the ozone layer, most of us are all too aware of the dangers posed by air pollution. But have you ever considered the possibility that indoor air quality could present an equally serious risk to your health?

According to the results of several recent studies, indoor air pollution is a problem that is much more widespread than most people realise. And because most adult Australians spend a substantial proportion of their waking hours at work, the adverse health effects of being exposed to substandard air quality in the office can be particularly severe.


Employees in certain types of work settings are likely to be at greatest risk for health problems related to poor air quality. These workplace settings include entertainment venues where tobacco smoke might be an issue, historic structures that contain asbestos, lead, or other unsafe materials, locations in close proximity to industrial waste streams, jobs that require extended contact with potentially dangerous chemicals or substances, and sites with poor ventilation. Mould, pollen, and other allergens comprise another type of threat to indoor air quality.


What’s more, these kinds of problems might not affect everyone to an equal degree – employees with pre-existing health issues may be more readily affected by indoor air quality than their co-workers are. For example, workers with compromised immune systems, asthma or other respiratory problems, severe allergies, or chronic headaches may have a harder time handling variations in indoor air quality.


Think the air quality in your workplace might not be pristine? Use this checklist to determine if there might be a problem.


Have staff members experienced or detected:


  • The presence of an unusual smell or odour
  • Chronic headaches
  • A higher-than-typical number of asthma attacks or respiratory illnesses
  • Lingering coughs or breathing problems
  • Multiple instances of unusual symptoms such as intense fatigue, dizziness, or nausea


If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it may be beneficial to have the air quality of your office assessed by a professional. In some cases, simple fixes such as fans or retrofitted ventilation systems might solve the problem.