Study Shows Minor Air Pollution Negatively Affects Workplace Productivity

Severe air pollution is obviously harmful to the environment. Both indoor and outdoor air pollution can cause widespread diseases and jeopardize entire ecosystems. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 3.3 million deaths per year are attributed to indoor air pollution alone. Even minor air pollution, however, might be more damaging than researchers originally thought.

A new working paper from researchers at Columbia Business School and Germany’s Leibniz University shows that air pollution actually negatively affects workplace productivity, no matter the industry.

According to The Washington Post, poor air quality isn’t just bad for a person’s health, but for their careers as well — even if those careers involve office desk jobs.

Steffen Meyer and Michaela Pagel, the study’s two co-authors, took data on stock trades made by over 100,000 private investors in Germany over a 12-year period from 2003 to 2015 and paired it with air quality, weather, and traffic data from over 1,600 monitoring stations.

It’s important to note that air quality can fluctuate significantly from day to day and there are plenty of other contributing factors to air pollution. But Meyer and Pagel were still able to find some significant discoveries.

They found that a modest increase in PM10, an outdoor microgram that are particles about one-seventh the thickness of human hair and can easily be inhaled deep into the lungs, reduced worker productivity by nearly 10%.

PM10 come from automobile exhaust pipes, construction debris, industrial sources, wood burning, and various other sources. If too much is inhaled, it can lead to severe asthma, certain respiratory issues, and even death.

“The negative effects of pollution on white-collar work productivity are much more severe than previously thought,” the authors wrote.

More research is needed before any international decisions are made, but this is a major breakthrough in both business and environmental sectors.

Related posts