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Poor Indoor Air Quality Is Making Construction Workers Sick

By Gerald Connor
Poor Indoor Air Quality Is Making Construction Workers Sick

Poor indoor air quality on construction sites may cause serious illnesses for workers. Even new, well-ventilated projects may have poor air quality, which may directly impact the productivity and comfort of workers, as well as their health. The adverse health effects that may result from working in environments with poor air quality may occur shortly after exposure, or years down the road.

What Factors Affect Indoor Environmental Quality?

Numerous factors may impact the air quality of indoor construction projects. During renovations, demolition, repair, and new construction projects, activities may release airborne pollutants such as gases, dust, microbes, organic vapors, and other such contaminants. Such contaminants may release due to the work performed in the area or as a result of the building materials in use on the project. For example, this may include cleaning agents, carpeting, vinyl flooring, paints, varnishes or stains, and adhesives; all of which may release potentially hazardous vapors or particulates when in use. Inadequate ventilation of the area may allow the levels of such pollutants to grow, unchecked. Further, high temperatures and humidity levels may also cause the concentration of some pollutants to increase, as may unvented, malfunctioning, or improperly used appliances and products.  

How Do Air Pollutants Affect Workers?

Poor air quality may have a range of immediate and long-term effects on workers’ health. While some such effects may resolve with removal from the polluted environment, treatment, and time, others may cause or aggravate other medical conditions. Some of the most common immediate reactions to indoor air contaminants include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritation of the nose, throat, and eyes
  • Nausea

Exposure to poor air quality on construction sites may also result in longer-term health effects, such as cancer, some respiratory diseases, and heart disease. Such conditions often manifest as a result of years of exposure or long, repeated periods of exposure.

How Can Employers Keep Workers Safe?

Although employers and construction workers may not keep contaminates from generating in indoor project sites, they may take steps to help ensure their safety. Employers should take steps to anticipate the types of activities on their projects that may release contaminants into the environment and implement controls to help minimize exposure to these pollutants. Additionally, employers should educate their workers on potential airborne hazards and the effects they may have on their health.