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Chief Exec British Allergy Foundation Muriel Simmons
"Anybody can be effected"
 real 28k

Sunday, 25 March, 2001, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
How work can make you sick
Office equipment can make you ill
Office equipment can make you ill
Offices can make you sick, according to the British Allergy Foundation.

A survey by NOP found at least 40% of office workers have symptoms which have been linked to sick building syndrome, such as sore eyes and throats, headaches and tiredness.

Many workers would put those symptoms down to the stress of poring over a complex report.

But the British Allergy Foundation (BAF) is warning that ozone, given off by office equipment such as photocopiers and computers, fax machines and printers, can make office workers ill.

The gas can make asthma and allergies worse. And even people who are fit and well can be affected.

But last year's survey found 94% of office workers don't know the equipment that surrounds them gives off ozone.

And the smaller the office and the more equipment there is, the worse the problem is likely to be.

The first BAF office allergy awareness day, held on Monday, is aimed at alerting workers and their bosses of the potential health risks they are exposed to every day.

Ozone's effects

A trial at Loughborough University exposed healthy people to fairly small doses of ozone.

Half of those studied showed a "significant" reduction in lung function.

Maureen Jenkins, a nurse advisor for the British Allergy Foundation (BAF), said it was important office workers - and their bosses - were aware of the problems and tried to tackle them.

She told BBC News Online: "Over 90% of office workers don't seem to be aware that there's a problem within the office that could be causing the symptoms they complain of."

Ms Jenkins added office workers were exposed to other irritants, such as formaldehyde in furniture.

Muriel Stevens, chief executive of the BAF, added: "Raising awareness amongst allergy sufferers about the adverse effects of ozone is important."

The ozone layer in the atmosphere is beneficial as it protects the earth from the sun's ultraviolet rays.

'Questions'

But a 1983 guidance note from the Health and Safety Executive said: "The acute toxicity of ozone has long been recognised and is well documented."

A spokesman for the Confederation of British Industries told BBC News Online: "There are lots of questions still to be answered about the claims over ozone in the workplace.

"But this is the kind of thing that responsible employers would look at with a great deal of interest.

He added that the office allergies awareness day was an initiative to be applauded.

The BAF says measures such as improving the ventilation in an office can help reduce the effects of high ozone levels.

It also accredits a product called Nozone, a vaporiser which eliminates harmful ozone levels.

Nozone is available from high-street retailers.

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