Harmful substances in the office

Many people spend a lot of time at the office. As a result, you come into contact with multiple harmful substances without having to realize this. It can concern contaminants from the carpet, drywall or paint. The fine particles from printers can also be harmful. It is therefore very important to go into the fresh air and ventilate well in between. The air pollution inside is in some cases more serious than the air pollution outside.

Air pollution

We hear many negative reports about air pollution that would make you think it would not be wise to go outside. However, research has shown that employees come in contact with substances that are much more harmful to health. Substances that can be dangerous for employees include smoking or substances from paint or floor coverings. The concentration of these harmful substances may be low, but the harmfulness does increase over time. It also appears that when harmful substances come into contact with each other, they are even more dangerous. The interactions between different substances can lead to effects that are greater than the added risk of the individual risks.


Many employees spend most of their time in the office and then quickly come into contact with these hazardous substances. It is therefore very important that there is good ventilation. This prevents dust particles from spreading or getting stuck. In meeting rooms and rooms where there is a copying or printing device, the total air volume must be replaced at least four times per hour. Equipment can therefore best be placed in a room with sufficient windows that can be opened.

Harmful substances

The indoor environment contributes most to the health risk caused by exposure to substances. Air pollutants are formaldehyde, particulate matter, radon, benzene and naphthalene. These harmful substances occur indoors as a result of smoking, from the carpet, the drywall or paint. These are low concentrations that accumulate with poor ventilation and which can cause complaints. Below is a list of some harmful substances:


Formaldehyde can be released from glued materials such as chipboard. Especially since chipboard can become moist, which makes it easier to release this substance. One can get a headache from this substance. The combination with the other possible effects of formaldehyde is that one can become very restless. To combat the formaldehyde problem, it is important to use the correct building materials and to ensure good ventilation.


Radon is a source of natural radiation. This radioactive substance is found to a limited extent in almost all materials of natural origin. Building materials contain these radioactive substances such as uranium. Urarium is a decay product in which a different radioactive substance is always formed. The decay sequence passes from uranium to lead. It is important to choose the right building material and to properly ventilate the space where it can be released.

Fine dust

In the office there are many devices that emit hazardous substances such as the particulate matter from printers. It is claimed that the toner substance is carcinogenic. In the Netherlands there are no standards for particulate matter in the working environment. However, there are standards in the environmental legislation for the amount of particulate matter that are constantly decreasing. Some people have sensitive respiratory tracts where the exact cause is hard to find out. The complaints are experienced with the heated air from equipment that is not only warm but also quite dry. This air often also contains more dust particles.

General complaints

Often the employees who have complaints due to harmful substances suffer from the following symptoms: airway complaints, headache, mild inflammatory reactions in the upper respiratory tract or skin complaints. There are various possible reasons for this and they are often difficult to determine. It can be caused by the harmful substances in the office, but also by microbial pollution, (wrong) climate control, dust in the air or a combination of these factors. There is a name for these complaints, namely the Sick Building Syndrom. Women appear to be more sensitive to these complaints.

Video: Hazardous Substances Safety - The Fundamentals - Solvents, Chemicals, Fuels, Fire and Explosion (February 2020).

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