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Stay healthy in a closed environment

March 31, 2008

If you always suffer from headaches, you are not alone. Such headaches are often accompanied by fatigue and tired eyes, and could be due to the office environment.

What is poor indoor air quality?
Most office buildings are airconditioned, with poor supply of fresh air. Physical factors such as air temperature, humidity, and air circulation affect general comfort and can influence air quality. For example, excessive humidity can stimulate the growth of microbes. If the air is too dry, static electricity builds up and particles become suspended in the air where they can be inhaled or cause skin rashes. Says Dr Anuj Sharma, Senior Consultant, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi: “The growing use of synthetic materials, office equipment (photocopiers and laser printers) and dirt, and outdoor air pollution also contribute to indoor air contamination.”

How can it affect your health?
Poor quality air can irritate eyes, skin, nose and throat. It can cause fatigue, headaches, and shortness of breath, sinus congestion, and cough. Says Dr Ashutosh Shukla, Consultant, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon: “It makes you lose concentration and interest and you end up feeling irritable and unproductive. Breathing air pollutants can lead to allergies, infections and asthma.”

What can you do about it?
Says Dr Shukla: “The best way is to open your office windows regularly to let in fresh air.” The air-conditioning system should ideally allow for 25 per cent of fresh air to be circulated at all times. Alternatively, step out of the buildings at regular intervals for a breather. Says Dr Shukla: “Keep office temperature in the 20-23°C range.”

Relative humidity should not exceed 60-70 per cent. Generally, a well-designed, and functioning air handling system can dilute potential pollutants within an office setting.

—Manu Kaushik

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