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Office Air Makes You Dumb

According to a new study at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, high levels of carbon dioxide in your office could be clouding your mind. That’s right, if you can’t think straight, blame it on the air in the office!

 

A recent article in Men’s Health News shared some reports on the study. In the study, researchers gave 22 people a decision-making test in a simulated office environment while the concentration of CO2 in the air was increased from 600 parts per million (ppm) to 1,000, then 2,500 ppm. (Normal CO2 levels tend to about around 600 ppm with a limit of 5,000 ppm, according to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration.)

The results: At the highest levels of carbon dioxide, the participants’ focus, initiative, and ability to strategize plummeted, dropping from above average well into the bottom tier of scores.

 

Your office could be at risk, too. Buildings with poor ventilation can have increasing CO2 levels during the day that can reach a few thousand ppm, says study author Mark Mendell, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. But why does excess carbon dioxide temporarily turn you into a dunce? It could be that elevated levels of CO2 in your blood—the direct effect of breathing it in in high levels—can lead to a lack of oxygen in the brain.

 

In the meantime, carbon dioxide isn’t the only harmful indoor pollutant you’re breathing in. Carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and volatile organic compounds can have a detrimental effect on your health—and could all be lurking in your office.

 

The article in Mens Health News suggested a few ways to breathe clean if you’re stuck inside all day. Take a look, if you are like me, you can’t afford to get much dumber!

 

Become a Windowsill Gardener

“Just two or three healthy plants in your cubicle will absorb more carbon dioxide and other air pollutants, while releasing fresh oxygen,” says Bill Wolverton, Ph.D., a former environmental engineer for NASA and author of Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them. His recommendations for easy-to-grow air-scrubbers: The Golden Pothos, peace lilies, and lady palms, which were found to be the most effective removers of pollutants among common houseplants, according to research conducted by NASA.

Book a Bigger Conference Room Than You Need

Clusters of people in an enclosed space is a guaranteed recipe for excess CO2. In fact, a cramped conference room can reach 1,900 ppm of CO2 in just 30 minutes, says Mendell. Your move: Meet in a larger room. The bigger the space, the more slowly your coworkers’ breath will increase the carbon dioxide in the room.