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Office workers fear indoor air pollution

Update: October, 02/2015 - 07:50
A computer keyboard may contain conventional pollutants like mould, bacteria, dust, organic compounds and micro-organisms. White-collar workers are seeking ways to minimise risks of office diseases caused by poor indoor air quality. — VNS Photo Truong Vi

HA NOI (VNS) — White-collar workers in cities are seeking ways to minimise risks of office diseases caused by poor indoor air.

Nguyen Thu Hang, 35, of Hoang Mai District, said that she usually felt tired and sleepy when she arrived at her office in a building in downtown Ha Noi.

She said that the windows and doors at her office were closed almost all the time because of the air conditioning.

Hang said that even though she cleaned her desk daily, it was still dusty the following day.

Office cleaners were only in charge of cleaning the floor, lobby, elevators and rest-rooms and staff like must keep their own desks clean, Hang said.

"Sometimes, my co-workers seemed too busy to clean their desk and heaps of paper on the table hide dust," she said.

Duong Thi Huong, of northern Vinh Phuc Province, said that her job related to printing documents at office and she usually had a runny nose and sneezed at the office despite the fact that she did not have respiratory problems.

"When I come home, the symptoms disappear," she said.

Dr Tran Dinh Bac, a labour safety and hygiene expert told Khoa hoc& Doi song ( Sciences& Life) newspaper that Huong possibly had sick building syndrome that refers to a number of ailments that occur as a result of exposure to harmful chemical toxins at a home or work building.

The main conditions for experiencing Sick Building Syndrome are spending long periods of time in well-sealed, poorly ventilated buildings that contain indoor air toxins.

It is typically marked by headaches and respiratory problems, attributed to unhealthy or stressful factors in the working environment such as poor ventilation.

Bac said in order to improve air quality at offices, it was necessary to clean offices regularly, particularly floors, ceilings and walls where mould can develop.

Ventilation systems must be also maintained regular.

He said that office windows should be opened in cool weather to get fresh air from outside.

Office workers should go out during breaks for fresh air as well, Bac said, adding that some office plants could help absorb pollutants and release clean air.

Ngo Quoc Khanh, from the Scientific Research Institute of Labor Protection, said the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that indoor air pollution has contributed to 50 per cent of diseases affecting humans.

Conventional pollutants found in homes and offices include mould, bacteria, dust, organic compounds and micro-organisms. The pollutants are emitted from many sources such as cigarette smoke, firewood stoves, gas stoves, appliances and household items.

A WHO study found that oil lamps and gas and coal cookers in residential housing dispersed many air pollutants harmful to human health, such as benzene, formaldehyde, ozone and naphthalene. Noise and cold climate caused people to close their windows, trapping toxic agents indoors and making exposure to them inevitable.

According to WHO, in 2012, there were seven million deaths caused by air pollution, of which 3.3 million were attributed to indoor air pollution. The death toll was concentrated in low and middle income countries in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region. — VNS

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