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Environmental Pollution

Workplace Pollution

These days we hear about pollution often as if it could be anywhere! The word almost lost its meaning while it seems to be intrinsically connected to the modern society and has become as much part of our way of living as it is hard to imagine that we can really have any escape from it. And yet, this is far from the truth as there are many things we can do both as individuals and society in order to prevent and change our pollution exposure at workplace or elsewhere. The first step is to become aware that some people are more exposed or more at risks than others. If we identify we are at a higher risk, then, there are many things we can do to change this. In this section, we provide information related to workplace pollution and simple things you can do to test and change the exposure and risks with the final goal of pollution prevention (for a similar evaluation of pollution risks based on your home location please click here). Below is a checklist with professions/jobs at higher risk of workplace pollution:

  • Mining and smelting jobs
  • Foundry workers
  • Construction workers
  • Chemical industry jobs (including chemical manufacture, as well as chemical re-package and storage)
  • Manufacturing jobs (including Auto manufacturing)
  • Aerospace jobs
  • Dry cleaning jobs
  • Gas station jobs
  • Convenient store jobs
  • Textile industry jobs
  • Some office jobs – depending on the location and/or building materials used for the office building
  • Research jobs (researchers) – may be exposed to various hazardous materials if accidents occur in the research lab

Additionally, any jobs involving the storage and disposal of waste may also create a pollution exposure risk.

What is Workplace Pollution?

Workplace pollution is the presence of polluting materials and/or noises within a workplace to which people performing their job (workers) may be exposed and which could be hazardous to human health. The exposure to hazardous materials can occur in several ways including through:

  • the breathing air – if the air indoor the workplace gets polluted
  • direct contact with toxic and/or corrosive materials
  • accidental ingestion of toxic chemicals or of polluted water/liquids

Additionally, workplace noise is another example of workplace pollution that could affect worker’s hearing and is unpleasant.

Workplace Pollution Definition

The definition of workplace pollution is the presence of hazardous materials or noises within a workplace that may get in contact with people while performing their job. Such workplace pollutants may affect worker’s health especially if exposure continues over longer periods of time even at low levels. The most common exposure is that to workplace air pollution. This involves workplace hazards from airborne pollution or in other words the presence in the workplace indoor air of hazardous substances either as gases (fumes) or as particulate matter (tiny particles - dust) dispersed in the air. Other type of exposure may occur involving skin contact, ingestion, and/or ijection. Read more about Workplace Pollution Exposure.

Environmentalists that Work with Pollution

In addition to the jobs listed above, the environmentalists or environmental professionals may also be exposed to hazardous materials while performing their job. However, the environmental professionals, unlike other workers, are aware of the risks and thus take precautionary measures. However, this category of professionals usually performs field work in polluted environments and could still be exposed to hazardous materials in the following situations:

  • when accidents occur;
  • when new pollutants or mixture of pollutants become of health risk in certain environmental conditions; in such situation the precautionary measures may not be effective or enough to prevent dangerous exposure situations

These events are however disparate and, although they can cause acute exposure episodes, overall they may pose a lower threat than the exposure to lower levels of hazardous materials through workplace pollution in the situation of the jobs listed above.

Thus, one may ask: what kind of regulation corrects air pollution or job discrimination? Well, there are many regulations in place, starting with safety procedures and preventive regulations under OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) and various EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations. In general, employees are required to comply to such regulations, while employers insure safe workplace environments. Pollution prevention at  workplace involves the same measures as anywhere else. These include: wearing protective equipment if contact with hazardous materials may not be avoided otherwise, good air ventilation indoors and deployment of safety procedures (e.g., such as identify and avoid direct contact with toxic materials, do not drink or eat in the presence of hazardous materials, wear protective equipment whenever required). In fact, any environmental investigation contains appropriate Health and Safety Plans.