Your home’s air quality may be worse than that of your workplace

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According to a new study from Texas A&M University’s School of Public Health, the air quality inside houses may not be comparable to that inside office buildings.

The pilot study, which was published in the journal Atmosphere, looks at indoor air quality and health consequences in remote workers during the COVID-19 epidemic. In 2019 and 2020, researchers monitored indoor air quality in employees’ offices and homes, as well as their health outcomes during those times.

Indoor air pollution is frequently linked to building materials as well as the activities of people who live and work in those structures. VOCs from carpet and furniture, paints, and other chemicals, as well as fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and mold, are among these contaminants.

Long-term exposure to indoor air pollution has been linked to a variety of negative health outcomes, including headaches, dry eyes, cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer. As a result of these findings, a lot of effort has gone into improving the indoor air quality of office buildings.

However, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of people working from home has increased considerably during the last two decades, making home indoor air quality a workplace health issue.

Taehyun Roh, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Genny Carrillo, associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, worked with colleagues from Houston Methodist Hospital and Lancaster University in the United Kingdom to examine indoor air quality in an office building between May and July 2019 and then at the employees’ homes between June and September 2019.

The researchers collected data on air temperature, relative humidity, particulate matter, and VOC concentrations using a conventional consumer-grade air quality meter. At the same time, the researchers obtained data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on outdoor air temperature and particulate matter concentration.

Participants also completed a survey in which they assessed the frequency of symptoms such as dry, itchy, or watery eyes, stuffy nose, and dry or irritated skin on a scale ranging from not having symptoms to having them every day.

All of the participants lived in single-family homes with central air conditioning, and none of the residents smoked or worked with hazardous products.

Fine particulate matter concentrations were found to be significantly higher in the individuals’ homes than in their offices, and the home levels were higher than the criterion for a healthy work environment, according to the study.

The researchers also discovered that VOC concentrations in residences were greater than in offices; however, VOC concentrations in both sites were substantially below the health-related limit. The majority of employees in the research said they had more symptoms when they worked from home.

The outcomes of this study highlight the relevance of indoor air quality for persons who work from home, as well as the need for improvements. This might be as easy as opening windows when the outside air quality permits or supplying air purifiers to distant personnel.

Improving indoor air quality in both traditional office buildings and home offices will likely become a growing field of research for public health researchers and companies seeking to assure health, safety, and productivity.

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