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Air Pollution and Employee Health in Asia
09 Oct 2018Asia

Air Pollution and Employee Health in Asia

October 9, 2018
Alice Peng
Associate Director, Employee Health and Benefits at Mercer
Typically, when weighing the pros and cons of a job, people consider the salary, the location, and the opportunities for professional growth and personal fulfillment. But here is a new consideration: quality of life. Welcome to working in a world forever altered by climate change, escalating populations and urban sprawl. These global environmental problems are impacting some regions particularly hard, most notably Asia and its megacities.
What Are 6.3 Days a Year Worth to You?
According to a recent Mercer Marsh Benefits research report, Medical Trends Around the World 2018, the leading health risk to Asian employees is environmental risks, especially indoor and outdoor air pollution. Respiratory illnesses and related diseases are at disturbing levels across Asia, where medical inflation is around 10 percent for the entire region. The stakes are high for Asian economies, including China, which is the world’s second-largest economy, employing more than 774.5 million people. Many decades of unbridled growth and lax environmental laws have taken a devastating toll on China and its workforce, especially its urban areas.
Workers in Asian megacities, particularly in northern China, are familiar with the terminology of pollution. Particulate matter (PM) count is just another component of the weather, like the percent chance of rain or the air temperature. Residents of megacities know that a PM 2.5 air quality can be hazardous and to mitigate activities that involve breathing unhealthy air. Going for a jog or commuting to work by bicycle without wearing a mask can contribute to debilitating health consequences. Companies are, however, taking steps to defend the health of their employees by providing preventative solutions such as indoor air purifiers, offering educational programs (including smoking cessation), and allowing flex scheduling on days with high PM levels. But more needs to be done.
China and India are attributed with nearly half of all premature pollution-related deaths in 2015, which amounts to about 6.5 million deaths every year, according to a WHO study on indoor and outdoor pollution. The destructive consequences of bad air in Asia have become unavoidable workplace issues, with employers and employees finally acknowledging the costs to health and productivity. For some perspective, the German Institute of Global and Area Studies discovered that high-level filtration systems could improve the life expectancy of office staff, in one organization’s China office, by an average of 6.3 days a year. Consider that for a minute: losing about a week of your life every year because you live and work in a city plagued by pollution. High-level filtration system? Yes, please.
For more details: http://www.brinknews.com/asia/air-pollution-and-employee-health-in-asia/
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Air pollution worse inside London classrooms than outside, study finds
05 June 2018London

Source by: theguardian.com

Air pollution worse inside London classrooms than outside, study finds
Exclusive: study of schools in capital finds dangerous levels of fine particulate pollution within classrooms, putting children at risk
Children in London schools are being exposed to higher levels of damaging air pollution inside the classroom than outside, putting them at risk of lifelong health problems, a new study has revealed.
Scientists studied five primary schools and one nursery in the capital as part of research into levels of air pollution indoors. The research shows that outdoor air pollution from diesel vehicles and other sources – both of nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution – is affecting the lives of children inside schools.
Young children – who are more vulnerable to airborne pollutants than adults – are breathing in fine particle pollution (PM10 and the even smaller PM2.5) at levels which are higher than the annual World Health Organisation guidelines of 20μg/m3 and 10μg/m3 respectively, the report said. Particulate pollution is primarily a product of diesel vehicles, tyre and brake dust, and solid fuel-burning, but can also come from inside a building itself.
In the case of PM10, children are being exposed to higher levels inside their lessons than outside on the street or in the playground, the report found.
The study, which was commissioned by the mayor of London and carried out by the Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering at University College London and the University of Cambridge chemistry department, examined five primaries and one nursery.
The report said a significant level of air pollution indoors in urban areas was due to outdoor pollution penetrating the buildings.
“Children living or attending schools nearer high-traffic density roads were exposed to higher levels of motor vehicle exhaust gases and had higher incidence and prevalence of childhood asthma and wheeze,” it said. “A higher incidence of childhood asthma was positively associated with exposure to nitrogen dioxide. Exposure to particulate matter was also associated with a higher incidence of wheeze in children.”
The study does not call for classrooms to be sealed off from outside air pollution as the issue is complex, and some studies indicate cognitive performance of children in classrooms is improved at lower temperatures with more ventilation.
The schools studied were a modern suburban nursery and primary school away from high traffic streets, a Victorian-built primary next to a busy road, two similar schools away from high traffic areas and a suburban modern school building close to a major road.
The findings came as the mayor published his first audit of air pollution at 50 of the capital’s schools and a series of measures to help them counter the impact of poor air quality around their schools.
The mayor on Thursday announced the creation of a £1m fund to help the worst-affected schools bring in changes immediately. The money will also provide 20 nurseries with air quality audits and indoor air filters.
For more details: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/24/air-pollution-worse-inside-london-classrooms-than-outside-study-finds
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