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Does Work Make You Sick?

  • Don't catch your work colleague's cold
  • Reduce your sick days
  • Feel better at work
  • Don't let illness at work ruin your week end
  • Reduce smells in the office
  • Reduce the effects of hay fever and other allergies
  • Show this information to your boss. Let them know how they can increase profits and improve your work environment.
  • If your employer decide to install Radic8s in their offices we will give you a special referral bonus. 

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Minor Conditions and Their Cross Contamination

It’s not a myth that when one person gets ill the whole office gets it. Cross contamination at work is a costly problem. Proctor & Gamble estimate the cost of the common cold to the UK economy at £42 billion p.a. 90% of UK workers admit going to work with a cold and employees are known to be a third less productive when suffering a cold. The average Briton has a cold for 8 days out of the year and works 6.5 of them.
 
Personal contact can spread many common infections such as a cold or “the flu”, but they are just as likely to be spread by airborne transmission. These viruses and bacteria can be spread through coughing, sneezing, talking and laughing. A single sneeze produces more than 40,000 droplets of moisture and millions of germs and, if the person sneezing does not cover their mouth, can be propelled over a distance of 32ft.
 
These pathogens (disease causing organisms) ride on either dust particles or small respiratory droplets. They can stay suspended in air and are capable of traveling distances on air currents.
 
Airborne diseases are common in crowded areas which is why cross contamination in open plan offices is so prevalent. Often, airborne pathogens or allergens cause inflammation in the nose, throat, sinuses and the lungs. This is caused by the inhalation of these pathogens that affect a person's respiratory system or even the rest of the body. Sinus congestion, coughing and sore throats are examples of inflammation of the upper respiratory airway due to these airborne pathogens.
 
It is unlikely, but not impossible, for someone to become infected by brief exposure to contaminated air but the chances of infection increase the longer one is near an infected person.
 

Allergies

According to a 2012 survey released by Allergyuk.org (the operational name of the British Allergy Foundation) over 5.7 million workers in the UK could be allergic to their office. 64 million sick days a year are due to allergies, costing the UK economy £6 billion in lost working hours. It is also accepted that employees suffering from an allergy at work are 40% less productive.
 
The UK is in the world’s top 3 allergy suffering nations and according to the Department of Health the number of allergy sufferers in the UK is rising by 5% a year. The Department of Health also estimate that 50% of Europeans will have some form of allergy by 2015
 
Allergyuk.org found that 95% of allergy sufferers experienced at least one of the following symptoms at work with 27% citing their symptoms are worse in the workplace and 51% saying their symptoms are sometimes worse at work:
 
• itchy or watery eyes
• blocked or stuffy nose
• running nose
• breathing difficulties
• dry throat
• lethargy and/or tiredness
• headache
• dry, itchy, burning, or irritated skin
 
Quite alarmingly over half of sufferers have had an allergic reaction at work, over a third suffering from asthma and over half reacting to dust mites. All of these problems can be addressed by actively minimising allergens in the 
workplace.                                                            
 
The size of the problem cannot be underestimated as 42% of allergy sufferers have taken time off work due to their allergies with 14% taking 4 to 10 days off in a year.
 

The Main Causes of Allergies at Work

  1. Dust mites are about a quarter of a millimetre long and are found in carpets, soft furnishings and outer clothing. It is not the mite itself but their droppings that cause the allergic reaction. Each mite can produce 20 of these waste droppings a day which not only fragment and continue to cause allergic symptoms even after the mite has died, but once airborne can remain so for long periods. Simply removing a book or file from an open shelf can disturb any dust that has collected and can release the allergen into the environment.
  2. Plants in an office can harbour moulds which release spores and it is these spores that cause the allergic reaction in people. It’s believed that nearly a third of people have an allergy to moulds.
  3. New synthetic building materials and most carpets and furniture give off Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde. The effects of formaldehyde are well known and can affect the eyes, nose and throat. Formaldehyde is common in pressed wood products such as MDF and will “off gas” for years, but it is a particular problem in the first 6 months. The smell you often associate with new furniture is formaldehyde and for those with chemical sensitivities it is a strong irritant.
  4. Modern open plan offices accommodate employees in close proximity to each other which can be an issue. Employees with pet allergies sitting within a metre of someone else can react to allergens brought in on people’s clothes, especially cat allergen. 
  5. Photocopiers and printers give off fumes and people with allergic airways (asthma, rhinitis) can react to these fumes if sitting in close proximity.
  6. By far the largest problem is poor ventilation. The US Environment Protection Agency has found that one of the 5 main reasons for the increase in allergies, in general not just at work, is reduced air exchange in buildings and that indoor air is up to 20 times more polluted than outdoor air. This is because modern air management systems reduce the amount of fresh air coming into a building and the recirculation of indoor air allows for a build up of VOCs, pollen and other allergens rather than them being ventilated outside.