Yes, you read the title of this article right! Three overlooked causes of serious health problems are having a detrimental impact on the health of employees and customers. Fortunately, important research is bringing these vital business health concerns to light. According to a landmark 2018 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), leading Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) in homes and businesses are:
* Environmental noise;
* Air quality; and
* Water quality.
Governmental health agencies worldwide are actively studying SDoH using advanced cloud-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems. This article will discuss the importance of these findings on business owners. Other articles in this series will present inexpensive methods for improving health in polluted business environments.
Both indoor and outdoor factors contribute to the level of noise in homes and businesses. Indoor sources of noise include ventilation systems, white noise machines, and appliances and other machines. Outdoor sources of noise include cars, trucks, airplanes, playgrounds, schools, and construction and other urban activities.
According to the WHO report, the expansion of urban activities, highways, airports, and low-quality building construction increases the level of noise that people are exposed to in homes and businesses. All told, these factors are known as “environmental noise.”
In addition to hearing loss and lack of sleep, SDoH studies have revealed that excess noise has other detrimental effects on health. Guidelines based on AI analysis of SDoH found that the relative risk for death by heart attack or stroke increases 14% for every 10 dBA increase above the annual average of 45 dBA daytime and 35 dBA nighttime.
For example, a 50 dBA turbine installation that meets current US and EU standards, running all day, every day imposes a 7% increased risk of heart attack and stroke annually on people exposed to the turbine’s noise.
Since the typical business office “cruises along” at 55 dBA, it’s easy to see the negative effects that noise is having on employees’ health!
Consequently, WHO noise guidelines of 45 dBA day and night will soon be adopted in the US by the NIH, HUD, NIOSH, EPA, and HHS. This means it behooves businesses to proactively implement measures for reducing noise.
As opposed to noise, poor air and water quality are more “silent killers.” In business, owners are responsible for providing a healthy workplace by ensuring proper building construction and maintenance. Management of moisture requires proper control of temperatures and ventilation to avoid excess humidity, condensation on surfaces and excess moisture in materials. Ventilation should be distributed effectively throughout spaces, and stagnant air zones avoided.
Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can also result from the presence of furnishings and building materials containing toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene, radon, and others. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has been linked to certain diseases like asthma. In addition, substances such as asbestos and radon do not cause immediate symptoms but can lead to cancer after many years of exposure. Poor outdoor air quality results from vehicle exhaust, industrial pollution, commercial manufacturers and construction sites.
Poor air quality is a major health concern. Like noise, AI analysis found increased risk of serious stroke and fatal heart attacks when poor air quality (indoor and outdoor) is present. AI analysis of SDoH found that the relative risk for death by heart attack or stroke increases 14% when you live and work breathing poor quality indoor and outdoor air.
Significant adverse health effects have been associated with inadequate plumbing systems in businesses and homes stemming from poor design, incorrect installation, alterations, and inadequate maintenance.
Numerous factors affect the quality of water within a building’s piped distribution system. Poorly designed plumbing systems, for instance, can cause stagnation of water and provide a suitable environment for the proliferation of Legionella.
Moreover, improper plumbing materials, pipes, fittings and coatings can result in elevated concentrations of lead in drinking-water, and inappropriate materials can be conducive to bacterial growth.
According to the EPA, there is evidence that several metals found in drinking water (such as lead and arsenic) may contribute to heart disease or aggravate its symptoms. In addition, Stroke reports that even low exposure to arsenic is associated with an increased risk of stroke. To the surprise of investigators, AI analysis of SDoH found that the relative risk for death by heart attack or stroke increases 14% when you live and work where you drink or breathe (yes breathe) poor quality water. Researchers discovered that toxins such as lead, arsenic and even radon can be found in municipal and well water in quantities 100 times or more than found in poor quality air. Of even greater concern is that even if you do not drink the water coming from the faucet at home and work, the water that is aerosolized while running that faucet to wash your hands and aerosolized when flushing the toilet can carry enough contaminants to increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
In conclusion, excessive environmental noise, poor air quality, and poor water quality can all lead to serious health conditions, including heart disease and stroke. When these Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) are present in your businesses, they can quite literally be killing your employees and customers. Now that the findings are in, the next step for business owners is action.