A previous research study noted a correlation between air pollution and outdoor workers. Authors of that 2011 document have recently also shown a possible negative effect between increased PM2.5 levels and indoor worker productivity in their newly released 2013 study.
Results, summarized by the Washington Post indicated “… that every 10-microgram per cubic meter increase in PM2.5 levels decreased worker productivity by 0.6%, as measured by the number pear boxes packed by each worker. Since workers were paid piecemeal, this translated to a decrease of roughly 41 cents per hour, per 10 micrograms of PM2.5.”
Through additional calculations from this study, the authors suggest that with the reductions in PM2.5 since 1997, the U.S. manufacturing sector may have had an aggregate labor savings of $19.5 billion—a previously-unknown benefit of fine particulate regulation.
PM2.5, or fine particulate matter that is measured in the micrograms and is less than 1/30th the width of a human hair, can cause health problems due to its ability to pass through human membrane and enter the bloodstream. However, its effect on worker productivity is still mostly unknown. Additional research is needed to substantiate current findings.