Poor indoor air quality may dull cognitive abilities

Gases such as carbon dioxide and substances released from office furniture, carpets, and desks may be dulling our minds at work, according to experts.

A May 6, 2019 New York Times article catalogued recent evidence suggesting that carbon dioxide, a main ingredient in our exhalations, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—all commonly found in office buildings—may affect abilities such as problem-solving and decision-making.

One study cited by the Times, led by Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, looked at office workers who were exposed to various concentrations of carbon dioxide and VOCs in a mock workplace. When workers were exposed to higher levels, their cognitive functioning scores dropped, the study found.

“What we saw were these striking, really quite dramatic impacts on decision-making performance, when all we did was make a few minor adjustments to the air quality in the building,” Allen said. “Importantly, this was not a study of unique, exotic conditions. It was a study of conditions that could be obtained in most buildings, if not all.”

Read the New York Times article: Is Conference Room Air Making You Dumber?