Research shows: Good indoor air quality on Swedish ships

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Swedish ships have good indoor air quality and emissions values are far below the limits set by the Work Environment Authority, as shown in a report from the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, IVL.

Despite the hazardous substances present on board in the form of oil mixtures, chemicals, frying smoke, perfumes and so on, the indoor air quality on Swedish ships is good. Exposure to toxic emissions such as benzene, nitrogen oxides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHC) is far below the limits set by the Work Environment Authority regardless of the department, post and type of ship.

“One thing that surprised us was that even smaller cargo ships had good indoor air,” says the researcher Sarka Langer, who carried out the study together with her colleagues, Cecilia Österman and Bo Strandberg. “It was probably because they had good ventilation on board.”

Engine crew had highest exposure
The study looked at 124 crew-members working in different shipping segments and in different posts. Their exposure rates to harmful substances were examined using personal meters attached near the breathing zone. There was no clear difference in the level of exposure between crew-members and officers. Those working in the engine room and on deck were more exposed than service personnel, even though the limits were not exceeded there either. The study also included a questionnaire in which the participants judged the air quality at their workplaces and in their cabins. There were just over 300 respondents from different departments, who answered questions about how their perception of air quality and smells in the rooms they spent time in. Results from the survey showed the opposite of the measurements. Those who worked on the decks and in the engine rooms, where exposure to toxic substances was highest, thought that the air quality was reasonably good and smells were moderate to low. Service personnel, on the other hand, thought that the air quality was worse and smells were moderate to strong.

“We don’t really know why there is such a difference in perception. One theory is that service personnel have a higher work load with a lot of stress and little time for recovery, and maybe they feel the air quality is worse for those reasons,” says Sarka Langer.

The title of the report is “Risk assessment of Swedish seafarers’ occupational exposure to toxic air pollution; measurements and survey”. The full report is available in Swedish on the SAN website under the tab on reports.

Linda Sundgren, text and photo

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