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Is Your Workplace Hazardous? 5 Occupational Contaminants

Did you know that according to the Environmental Protection Agency, on average, we spend 90% of our entire lives indoors (whether inside buildings or in our cars)? [1]

Poor indoor air quality in residential or commercial buildings has long been associated with various health effects. In particular, “poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has been tied to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.” [2] Health effects associated with poor indoor air can also include serious conditions like “[…] respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer.” [3]

So whether we’re at home or at work, indoor air quality (IAQ) is supremely important to our overall health and well-being!

Many employees, especially ones working indoors and that regularly rely on chemical contaminants to carry out their day-to-day duties, can be at a greater risk of poor indoor air quality and potential short- and long-term health issues.


Here are 5 common occupational contaminants and their sources, all of which can reduce the overall quality of the air inside and outside your commercial or industrial property:


  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can originate from many chemical and manufactured products, including paints, dyes and stains, cleaning supplies, building materials like carpets and furniture, office equipment and supplies like printer ink and toner cartridges, and photo development solutions. It’s safe to say that every workplace from commercial building contractors to health care facilities to administrative offices is affected by some level of VOC contamination.


  • Carbon monoxide where employees in workplaces like automotive repair shops or parking garages may be regularly exposed to low but consistent carbon monoxide exposure due to accumulated auto exhaust and insufficient or incorrect ventilation.


  • Biological contaminants like pet dander, dust, mites and insects, and bacteria and pollen from flowers and plants can accumulate in workplaces like pet grooming salons, florists, greenhouses and garden supply stores, among others.


  • Radon is an odourless, colourless radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. Radon is present in many indoor workplaces but workers in commercial and industrial spaces at ground level or in basements are often at higher risks of radon exposure. Radon can also accumulate in confined areas like crawl spaces and attics. For more information about radon in buildings, visit our article on 13 Fast Facts about Radon for Real Estate Professionals.


  • Synthetic pest and plant control contaminants like pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides will all contribute VOCs and reduce overall indoor air quality. These are commonly found in landscaping, lawn care and pest extermination workplaces. These chemical contaminants can also have a direct and permanent effect on the overall health of humans, animals and the environment.


If you own a commercial or industrial property and are concerned about its potential indoor air quality risks for yourself and your staff, give us a call today at 416-575-6111.

We serve Toronto and the GTA!





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