How Climate Change Could Make Office Work Even Unhealthier

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“Sick building syndrome” and other indoor concerns could be exacerbated by climate change

As the world heats up around us, many people take solace in the idea that their indoor lives may not be affected much by climate change.

But a number of experts say that hotter outdoor temperatures and extreme weather events like drought or storms may cause unhealthier conditions and less productivity in offices, schools and other buildings.

“When it comes to climate change and office work, I think that the reality is that our built environment, the buildings we work in and all of our systems, were built for a climate that we’re no longer living in,” says Aaron Bernstein, the associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health. “From any number of angles, climate change can increase the risk for potentially harmful environments.”

The hotter it gets, the more the cost of air-conditioning in office buildings around the world increases. In Japan, the government has tried since 2005 to get office workers to lose the formal jacket and tie to lower energy costs through campaigns like “Cool Biz,” and some media attention in the Unites States has focused on the idea of getting male office workers to dress a little more casual in the summer to lower the need for extreme (and possibly sexist, according to one columnist) air conditioning.

But apart from the obvious rise in utility costs, the changing climate may also set off a whole host of other problems for those desk-bound among us. Higher carbon levels could induce fatigue and affect decision making while mold and higher ozone levels that react with a number of chemicals used in common cleaning products can cause irritating symptoms like runny noses, dry eyes and other problems.

Read the entire article here at Smithsonian.com.

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