Creating an Asthma-Friendly Work Environment

One in 12 adults in the U.S. lives with asthma, and for many of them, their workplace is making them sicker.

Asthma in the workplace

Nearly 11 million workers are exposed to at least one substance that causes asthma, and work-related asthma is the most frequently reported occupational lung disease. Not only could your workplace be triggering your asthma symptoms, but exposures to certain chemicals, irritants or allergens could cause asthma to develop for the very first time.

Consider your asthma triggers

Both indoor and outdoor work environments may contain irritants that contribute to asthma. A few common triggers include industrial or wood dust, chemical fumes, solvents, pests, molds, secondhand smoke, vehicle exhaust, ozone, and particulate matter air pollution. May was Asthma Awareness Month and a good time to improve your air quality and eliminate asthma triggers at work.

How to improve your asthma in the workplace

First, look for signs of unhealthy air. This can include tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide, allergens, bacteria, viruses, welding fumes, gases, solvent vapors, and mists. Once you have identified the source of the unhealthy air, follow steps to clean it.

Secondly, speak with your supervisor. Even speak with the building management about the problem and potential risks. Then, remove the problem, such as using different cleaning chemicals or replacing old drywall and carpeting. Also, make sure the ventilation system is working correctly and that airflow is not blocked.

Next, protect the air at your workplace. Keep your environment tobacco-free, store food properly, dispose of garbage regularly and often, clean up spills, report leaks immediately, do not bring in products or chemicals with strong odors, and be aware of potential hazards and safety procedures.

Lastly, learn the laws. Know the laws that are put in place to protect healthy air in work environments by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the National Institute for Occupation Health and Safety.

For more information about asthma and managing the disease, visit Lung.org/asthma.

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