High CO2 Levels Indoors Impair Cognition

students in classroom photoMarie/CC BY-SA 2.0

We're used to thinking about the negative effects of rising CO2 levels on the climate, but some new research shows that indoor CO2 levels, often higher than the atmospheric levels, can impair cognition.

Science News writes:

Carbon dioxide levels are often substantially higher in buildings than the 350 to 400 ppm typically found outdoors. Indoor values of 600 ppm are considered very good. But depending on how many people inhabit a room and how many times per hour its air is exchanged with outdoor air through ventilation, “there are plenty of buildings where you could easily see 2,500 ppm of CO2 — or close to it — even with ventilation designs that are fully compliant with current standards,” Hedrick says.

At 2500 ppm, the report found, on seven tests of mental performance fell "substantially more" than at normal levels of CO2, or even levels elevated to 1000 ppm.

Two takeaways: The first, from the researchers is that should this work be confirmed by other studies, indoor ventilation rates should be increase; the second, a question from me, is that as outdoor CO2 rises to 600ppm (as it well may should we not reduce greenhouse gas emissions), what will the effect be on indoor levels—after all you would be starting from a considerably higher baseline?

h/t Yale e360

Tags: Carbon Dioxide | Carbon Emissions | Health


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