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High CO2 Levels Indoors Will Surprise You

One of the most common e-mails we receive from customers is the surprise they get reading their new CO2 meter in enclosed spaces. They've found that high CO2 levels indoors can have a direct impact on their quality of life. Here are some examples we'd like to share:

High CO2 levels indoors at work

V. Jakimov writes, “The moment I powered the TIM10 CO2 monitor a high CO2 level alarm sounded. My CO2 was around 2,800 ppm. I was a bit surprised at first but then realized that my small office gets filled quite fast with breath exhaust carbon dioxide.”

In a paper published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers found that people working in buildings with below-average indoor air pollution and carbon dioxide showed better cognitive functioning than workers in offices with typical VOC and CO2 levels.

Fall asleep at home watching movies

Stephen L. writes, “My friends and I have been surprised at how quickly CO2 builds up in a room full of people. In a basement home theater setup I installed, with six people in a 20’x x20’x x8’ room watching a 2 hour movie, the CO2 concentration went from 400 to 2,000ppm by the end of the movie.”

Children sick, tired at school

Ken. C., a science teacher writes, “In one classroom of 30 students after lunch reached [CO2] levels of 4,825ppm with the door closed...We noticed a rise in asthma sufferers needing their inhalers later in the day when CO2 levels were the highest, typically after lunch. We also found a direct correlation to nausea, and headache complaints when levels were over 2,000ppm. Yawning started about 2,500ppm and progressed to some students just laying their heads down around 3,500ppm."

According to the EPA, indoor air quality (IAQ) directly impacts student academic performance and health. For example, the Chester School District in Connecticut saw the number of asthma-related health office visits decrease dramatically – from 463 to 256 – in a single year after improving the air quality in their schools. The Hartford school district saw asthma-related incidents decline from 11,334 to 8,929 in one school year.

Tired while driving

co2 drowsiness while driving

David R. writes, “Our studies found carbon dioxide levels rise to over 3,000ppm from 400ppm (outdoor air) in 30 minutes in an enclosed automobile with a single passenger.”

In fact, studies show that drowsiness accounts for between 10 and 30% of all automobile accidents and high CO2 levels are known to cause drowsiness. As a result, high-end auto manufacturers now put CO2 sensors in in their car cabins to automatically add fresh air when needed.

Lower concentration in the morning

A study by the military in South Korea attempted to determine the effect of CO2 levels in sleeping barracks on soldiers shooting accuracy. Two platoons of recruits were put in separate barracks: one with the windows and vents open, the other with them closed. After a full night sleep, both platoons participated in shooting accuracy tests.

The military was surprised to discover that the soldiers who slept in well-ventilated barracks had statistically improved shooting accuracy. In fact, they were so surprised that they switched the platoons the second night, repeated the tests, and found that the platoon in the well-ventilated barracks performance improved, while the other platoon’s performance suffered.


While it is obvious that a high CO2 level indoors cannot explain every sickness or ailment, It's worth considering. High CO2 levels are considered the "canary in the mine shaft" by IAQ experts. In addition to CO2, they may indicate additional problems like increased VOCs, dust, mold or microbes in the air.

For many of our customers, the TIM10 Indoor Air Quality Monitor is a low-cost way to discover air quality issues in their home, school or office.   


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