Air Impaired

Studies have shown that CO2 can impair your cognitive abilities. Create awareness of indoor CO2 levels with this fun project.

This project shows how to build a CO² for use in your home or office. With this device you can know at a glance if the air you are breathing is high in carbon dioxide. Using a simple color coded LED bar graph it displays the current CO² level. Each band is roughly 100 ppm of CO² increase. The range of the device is from 300 ppm (1 led lit) to 2,700 ppm (all 24 leds lit). For the precise reading use your mobile phone and connect to it over Bluetooth to monitor/track readings over time.

A few years ago I learned about a study from Berkeley Lab that showed a possible link between indoor Carbon Dioxide levels and human cognitive performance. Here’s a link to that study. It was also reported in the Washington Post as well as TreeHugger and some other news outlets a few years back. The findings of the Berkeley group are pretty striking. Here’s an image that summarizes their results pretty well.

When I first read these reports I was working for a startup in San Francisco. Our office was “scrappy” and a bit crowded. It was also in an older building with no real heating or cooling systems. During colder weather, with the windows closed, the office was noticeably stuffy. People would get sick frequently, including myself. I started getting migraines. It was not fun. There are many factors that influence health. It could have been the startup stress causing my health issues but I believe the environment also played a factor.

Environmental factors impacting workforce health are not new. Mining, handling chemical hazards, or manufacturing all impose health risks to the people who work in those environments. However, it’s only within the last few decades with more people working in office buildings that we have started looking into what’s known as “sick building syndrome.”

I had not heard about this until after I learned about this CO² study and started doing more research. The more I researched the more sick building syndrome started to seem like a very real thing.

Last year another study was published out of Yale that confirms the findings of the Berkeley study. You can read about that here and the journal article here. Although the Yale study also includes VOC’s the findings show again, for even moderately low levels of CO², there is a decreased cognitive performance in those individuals studied.

Although not quite the same presentation, here’s the results from their findings. As you can see, as CO² levels go up several of their indicators have distinct downward facing trends. Their “strategy” indicator takes a pretty steep drop.”


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