Studies have found that retail store air quality is often worse when outdoor air pollution is at a high level, which may negatively affect store employees and patrons. A recent review of retail air quality revealed that the air inside of retail stores can be more polluted than outdoor air. Exposure to indoor air pollution may cause itchy watery eyes, respiratory irritation, and trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has addressed the issue of indoor air quality in commercial buildings, and has identified five main factors that affect indoor air pollution:
- Indoor sources
- Outdoor sources
- Airflow patterns
- Air filtration systems
According to the EPA, common indoor sources of poor air quality include cigarette smoke, combustion from furnaces and generators, condensation, chemicals, contaminated HVAC systems and mold.
Common outdoor sources include traffic exhaust, gas stations, power plants, incinerators, restaurant emissions, pesticide spraying, roof drainage, fertilizer and sewer gas.
Ventilation refers to the amount of clean air that flows through an indoor space, which affects the level of particulates in the air. Ventilation can be enhanced with air filtration devices for maximum effectiveness.
Airflow patterns are the pathways by which air enters an indoor space. By understanding airflow patterns and locations, retail shop owners can identify sources of possible leakage that can affect the way contaminants enter their stores.
And finally, air filtration systems are any devices in an indoor space that filter harmful contaminants. Given the amount of polluted air that enters a retail store, it is nearly impossible for an existing ventilation system to eliminate airborne particulates without the aid of air filtration devices.
What does this mean for employees of retail stores and business owners?
Employees spend more time inside of these retail locations than shoppers. Extended exposure to poor office air quality can have a negative impact on their health. Poor retail store air quality can compromise worker productivity and result in a higher rate of employee sick days. A lack of ventilation combined with increased office air pollution will cause a significant increase in respiratory illnesses related to poor indoor air quality.
It is the responsibility of the shop owner to test their office air quality and to take measures to improve it. Not only will healthy retail air space draw in more customers, it will create a more productive work environment for employees.