ResearchAirborne hazards and pollution could be exacerbating health conditions of over 400,000 UK workers – says whitepaper

A new whitepaper by Global Action Plan and Zehnder Clean Air Solutions finds the quality of the air in the manufacturing sector continues to be underplayed – and UK workers exposed to unhealthy levels of airborne hazards and pollution.
Content Team1 month ago7 min

A new whitepaper, titled “With Every Breath We Make: Ensuring Healthy Air for Manufacturing Workers”, published today by Global Action Plan and Zehnder Clear Air Solutions, urges drastic action to improve air quality in manufacturing environments.

Urgent action is required, says the paper’s authors, to protect workers in the UK’s manufacturing environments who are unable to work remotely. As good respiratory health is shown to have an impact on a person’s ability to recover from Covid-19, the paper argues that workers in the manufacturing sector are at greater risk of major complications from the virus if they have been regularly exposed to dust, toxic particles and pollution at work.

Government action needed

The most urgent action from the whitepaper, which is supported by the Trade Unions Clean Air Network (TUCAN) and the Hazards campaign, is to call on UK government to update regulation to lower the acceptable limits for air pollutants in the industrial workplace, echoing the call from theInstitute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) and Trades Union Congress (TUC) that limits be changed to 1mg/m3 for respirable dust from the current 4mg/m3 COSHH trigger.

Airborne hazards can cause health conditions including heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, cognitive function, and depression.

According to Hilda Palmer, Hazards Campaign and the Trade Unions Clean Air Network (TUCAN), “The full harm and inequalities to workers caused by toxic chemicals and dust in workplace air is not captured by official figures but is enormous, killing tens of thousands each year, making hundreds of thousands seriously ill.”

The whitepaper also urges regulators to review exposure limits of all air pollutants, beyond current regulation and in line with new research which finds that airborne hazards can cause health conditions including heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, cognitive function, and depression. This includes launching long-term research programmes which combine air quality monitoring in manufacturing sites with tracking of workforce health issues.

Advice for UK manufacturers

“Current regulation continues to allow unacceptable levels of airborne hazards and pollution that are dangerous to manufacturing workers’ health,” says Chris Large, Co-CEO, Global Action Plan. The Paper therefore advises manufacturing companies themselves to review the business case for action on air pollution, with help from the authorities and adopt measures to eliminate airborne pollution.

Chris Large, also added: “The quality of the air and the working environment continues to be underplayed as a foundation of good employee wellbeing. Regulators must enforce lower limits to protect the hidden heroes who have continued to work throughout the pandemic, especially given ongoing research increasingly links poor air quality to the worsening of COVID-19 symptoms. 

Learn more

For an exclusive overview of the whitepaper, regulators, manufacturers and professionals in the health & safety sector are invited to attend a free virtual seminar, “Every Breath We Make – Ensuring Healthy Air for Manufacturing”. On November 5th at 12pm, Global Action Plan and Zehnder Clean Air Solutions will present an exclusive overview of the whitepaper and provide further detail on the latest scientific evidence as well as what manufacturers can do to protect their workers and advocate for better practices in the sector. Additional guests include MP Geraint Davies, Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution (APPG) and Graham Petersen, Founder of Greener Jobs Alliance.

The full whitepaper, titled With Every Breath We Make: Ensuring Healthy Air for Manufacturing Workers, can be downloaded here.

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Content Team

Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.

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