For the pilot study in Atmosphere, researchers delved into indoor air quality and health outcomes in people working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers measured indoor air quality in both the offices and homes of employees in 2019 and 2020 and evaluated their health outcomes during those periods.
Prolonged exposure to indoor air pollutants is associated with a wide range of poor health outcomes, from headaches and dry eyes to cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. These outcomes have driven significant work into improving office building indoor air quality.
However, the percentage of people working from home has grown dramatically over the past two decades and skyrocketed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning home indoor air quality can be considered a workplace health issue.
The participants all lived in single-family homes with central air conditioning, and none of the people living in any of the households smoked or worked with hazardous materials.
The study found that the fine particulate matter concentrations were significantly higher in the participants’ homes than in their offices, and the home levels were greater than the standard for a healthy work environment.
The researchers also found that VOC concentrations were higher in homes compared to offices; however, the VOC concentrations in both places were well below the limit set by health standards. The majority of employees in the study reported higher frequencies of symptoms while working at home.
The findings of this study point to the importance of indoor air quality for people working from home and the need for measures to improve indoor air quality. This could be as simple as opening windows when outdoor air quality allows it or providing remote workers with air purifiers.