Air pollution a problem for manufacturing sector, finds whitepaper

Posted: 27 October 2020 | | No comments yet

A new whitepaper has identified that workers in the manufacturing sector are being exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution, requiring urgent regulatory intervention.

air pollution in factory

A new whitepaper by Global Action Plan and Zehnder Clean Air Solutions finds that air quality in the manufacturing sector continues to be underplayed, with workers in the UK still being exposed to unhealthy levels of airborne hazards and pollution. The whitepaper presents a renewed case for tackling air pollution in industry workplaces calling for urgent action from policy makers, regulators and manufacturers.

The whitepaper, titled With Every Breath We Make: Ensuring Healthy Air for Manufacturing Workers, identifies the following key points:

  • An estimated 440,000 workers with health conditions that are exacerbated by air pollution are still being exposed to unhealthy levels of airborne hazards and pollution in manufacturing workplaces
  • The presence of airborne hazards causes production issues, which affects product quality and impacts profit margins
  • Current regulation allows levels of airborne hazards and pollution that are dangerous to manufacturing workers’ health
  • Regulation enforcement is not meeting the necessary standards.

The paper calls for urgent action to protect those workers who are unable to work remotely. Given the increasing evidence that poor air quality worsens underlying health conditions that make a person more vulnerable to complications should they contract COVID-19, and as workers in the manufacturing sector are at greater risk of being exposed to dust, toxic particles and pollution, remedial action is needed. 

The most urgent action summoned from the whitepaper, which is supported by the Trade Unions Clean Air Network (TUCAN) and the Hazards Campaign, is for the Government to update regulation to lower the acceptable limits for air pollutants in the industrial workplace. It echoes the call from the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) and Trades Union Congress (TUC) that limits should be changed from the current 4mg/m3 for respirable dust as a COSHH trigger to 1mg/m3

In addition to the Government call, the whitepaper further advises that regulators 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, declined 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. 

Manufacturers are also urged to review the business case for action on air pollution, with help from the authorities and adopt measures to eliminate airborne pollution.

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 5 November at 12pm, Global Action Plan and Zehnder Clean Air Solutions will present an overview of the whitepaper and provide further detail on the latest scientific evidence as well as advise 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.