10 Common Workplace Items That Could Be Dangerous to Your Health

Office worker likely facing unseen occupational hazards, impacting the level of workplace safety in the office

Office worker likely facing unseen occupational hazards, impacting the level of workplace safety in the office | iStock.com

Our jobs are killing us. Just not always using the means and methods you might suspect. Stress is obviously a factor, and there is a mountain of evidence suggesting that stressful jobs create their own sort of occupational hazard. But sometimes it’s the workplace itself — be it a fishing boat, office space, or tractor trailer — that is the biggest jeopardy to our health. No matter where you work, you’re likely to run into some sort of issue pertaining to workplace safety.

The thing is, though, most of us don’t really take the environmental risks into account. We’re more worried about getting in an auto accident or chopping a finger off with an office utensil. But there are risks all around us, and they’re often silent, invisible, and deadly.

Quill, an online office supply and equipment source recently compiled an infographic and brief detailing some common occupational hazards. While you may have considered your risk when it comes to some of these workplace safety problems, others may inspire a whole new reason to dread heading to work.

“Many of us spend more time at the office than we do just about anywhere else. But between busy meetings, long days, and balancing work and home life, the last thing on most people’s minds is how healthy (or unhealthy) that office is. A combination of factors leaves countless buildings in a toxic state,” Quill’s brief said.

By looking at possible hazards from both inside and outside the office, Quill’s infographic makes it clear that we may be spending a considerable amount of time in unsafe environments. From the graphic, here are 10 things that may be slowly killing you at work.

1. Radon

Tired businesswoman

Tired businesswoman | iStock.com/Poike

Radon is a dangerous, poisonous gas that is a real occupational hazard. A byproduct of radium decay, it’s radioactive, and if you’re exposed, it can lead to several health problems like lung cancer. Radon can become concentrated in buildings and basements, making it a workplace safety issue few of us take into consideration. It’s the number one cause of lung cancer after smoking, leading to tens of thousand of deaths per year.

2. Asbestos

Staff removing some asbestos in a post of transformer

Staff removing some asbestos | iStock.com/bermau

You’ve heard of asbestos and how it can cause cancer if you’re exposed to it for too long. Asbestos itself is often used as a building material, meaning it’s ubiquitous in several industries. It’s basically a mineral compound, which can flake off and be inhaled. Once they’re in your lungs, they cause all kinds of damage. Two of the most common associated issues are lung cancer and mesothelioma.

3. Lead paint

Painting supplies

Painting supplies | iStock.com

Lead paint isn’t typically a problem in newer buildings, but it’s still out there, and still posing a threat. Today, laws prevent lead paint from being used, but older buildings still contain lead paint from past generations. Lead is toxic, and exposure can lead to several health issues — particularly in children.

4. Molds

Mold growing next to a window

Mold growing next to a window | Stock.com/zeleno

Mold can lurk just about anywhere, but if you live in a wet and warm climate, you’re more likely to run into it. Mold comes in numerous forms, but you really only need to worry about a few of them. One of the most common types found in homes and offices is black mold, which can cause respiratory problems. Too much exposure? You’re likely to get sick.

5. Cleaning agents

A variety of cleaning products

A variety of cleaning products | iStock.com

All of those cleaning agents used to sanitize the office? They’re not great for you, especially if they’re too concentrated. This isn’t typically a big problem, but sometimes you can expose yourself to cleaning agents that can cause health issues. If you sit next to the supply cabinet, for example, you may be inhaling vapors day in and day out.

6. Pesticides

A man sprays pesticide around a building

A man sprays pesticide around a building | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If you work inside, you likely don’t worry about exposure to pesticides. But be aware that sometimes they can be used on indoor plants, or on the landscaping surrounding your building. If you’re too close to freshly sprayed plants for too long, this can create problems.

7. Unvented heaters

Cleaning a heating duct

Cleaning a heating duct | iStock.com

Some offices get cold, so it’s not uncommon to see people using personal space heaters to keep warm. But you’ll want to make sure that things are being ventilated properly and efficiently. Dangerous gas can build up, like carbon monoxide, and there’s always the risk for fire danger.

8. Adhesives

Used rolls of tape

Used rolls of tape | Adam Berry/Getty Images

We don’t give much thought to adhesives like glue or tape, but they’re pretty much everywhere. They hold our furniture together, and in industrial environments are used to repair and maintain machinery. But they can be toxic. Make sure you’re not being unknowingly exposed to toxic fumes from adhesives in your workspace. If you are, take measures to distance yourself.

9. Exhaust

ATLP Performance Exhaust system on a vehicle

ATLP Performance Exhaust system on a vehicle | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Exhaust from cars and buildings can cause some serious health damage. Working inside, however, you’re more than likely fine. But if you are right above a parking garage, or sit next to a window in which you’re seeing gridlocked traffic below? You might be getting smashed with toxic fumes. Again, you’re probably fine. But it is something to be aware of.

10. Copy machines

woman using a photocopier

A young woman using a Hitachi color photocopier in the 70s | Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Who would’ve thought the copier would be the one to kill you? Depending on the type of copy machine your office uses, you may be getting hit with emissions and ink particulates. Studies show that this can cause chronic lung issues, as well as cardiovascular problems. If you have a desk next to the copier, it may be wise to try and move.

For the complete brief on occupational hazards, visit Quill.

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