Most people are aware that smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are among leading risk factors of heart attack and stroke. But did you know that your business environment can also lead to heart attacks and strokes in your employees and customers?
According to a landmark 2018 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), leading Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) in homes and businesses are:
* Environmental noise;
* Air quality; and
* Water quality.
The following sections illustrate how each of these SDoHs increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. It behooves businesses to do something to help correct this problem because – as but one example – World Health Organization (WHO) noise guidelines of 45 dBA day and night will soon be adopted in the United States by the NIH, HUD, NIOSH, EPA, and HHS.
You may not have thought of your work environment as “noisy,’ but in reality it’s probably noisier than you might think. Fax machines, copiers, white machines, even excessively loud talking are all contributing factors to environmental noise in the workplace.
Guidelines based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) analysis of SDoH found that the relative risk for death by heart attack or stroke increases 14% for every 10 dBA increase above the annual average of 45 dBA daytime. Since studies show that 55 dBA is a common noise level in a typical business, it’s easy to see the negative effects that noise is having on employee and customer health!
Read that again: If 55 dBA is a common level of noise in a business setting, and the risk for death for heart attack or stroke increases 14% for every 10 dBA above the average of 45 dBA (daytime), it seems likely that your employees and customers are at an above-average risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. And this is in a typical office – what if you work in a noisy business? Let’s say average noise level at your business is 65 dBA – in that case you’re talking 28% higher risk of heart attack or stroke than 45 dBA!
The adverse effects of poor indoor air quality (IAQ) are better known. Poor IAQ can result from the presence of furnishings and building materials containing toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene, radon, and others. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), poor IAQ has been linked to certain diseases like asthma. In addition, substances such as asbestos and radon do not cause immediate symptoms but can lead to cancer after many years of exposure. In addition, vehicle exhaust, industrial pollution, and other factors lead to poor outdoor air quality.
All these factors are bad enough for employees and customers, but there’s more to the story. Like noise, AI analysis found increased risk of serious stroke and fatal heart attacks when poor air quality (indoor and outdoor) is present. AI analysis of SDoH found that the relative risk for death by heart attack or stroke increases 14% when you live and work breathing poor quality indoor and outdoor air.
And that is likely a conservative estimate. Your odds of a heart attack or stroke, or developing a chronic health condition may increase dramatically if, for instance, you work in a chemical manufacturing facility, the pharmaceutical industry or a fertilizer or insecticide company. The manufacturing and processing of metals, cement, and paper are other major culprits of air pollution.
Like air, water is a leading source of life, but unless you live in Flint, Michigan or another city that’s had community-wide health concerns stemming from a poor water supply, chances are you haven’t given much thought to the impact of water quality in your business environment.
Like air quality, that would be a mistake. According to the EPA, there is evidence that several metals found in drinking water (such as lead and arsenic) may contribute to heart disease or aggravate its symptoms. To the surprise of investigators, AI analysis of SDoH found that the relative risk for death by heart attack or stroke increases 14% when you live and work where the quality of water is poor.
In fact, researchers discovered that toxins such as lead, arsenic and even radon can be found in municipal and well water in quantities 100 times or more than found in poor quality air. Even if you do not drink the water coming from the faucet at home and work, the water that is aerosolized while running that faucet to wash your hands and also aerosolized when flushing the toilet can carry enough contaminants to increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
As you can plainly see, environmental noise, and poor air and water quality each contribute to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. And since those odds are likely much higher than you would have thought, the question becomes: What are you, as a business owner going to do about it?