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High CO2 Levels Indoors Will Surprise You

High CO2 Levels will Surprise You

There’s minimal conversation in the workspace about CO2 monitoring and adequate ventilation. Although this topic is currently trending, many employees, teachers, and students maintain a lack of awareness surrounding indoor air quality (IAQ) and ventilation in commercial buildings and schools.

Organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council, OSHA, and CDC are working to provide an adequate amount of data surrounding the importance of monitoring CO2 levels indoors, and what the potential long-term effects of exposure are for individuals exposed to higher amounts of CO2.

Many individuals tend to be surprised when it comes to understanding the importance of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) monitoring and recognizing the direct impact high CO2 concentrations can have on their overall well-being, health, and cognitive skills.

How to understand your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?

Have you ever been in a meeting after lunch, and felt groggy or unfocused? Feeling like you will barely make it through the remainder of the day, making your way into the breakroom for another coffee or energy drink? This might have more to do with CO2 levels and less to do with the after effects of a full stomach.

A study published by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory notes that, “People produce and exhale carbon dioxide (CO2) as a consequence of their normal metabolic processes; thus, the concentrations of CO2 inside occupied buildings are higher than the concentrations of CO2 in the outdoor air.” The ill feelings, tiredness, lack of focus, and even nausea can be attributed to higher CO2 levels as our bodies go through its natural processes. Indoors, this can lead to sick building syndrome.

According to EPA.gov, “The term "sick building syndrome" (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience negative health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.” Higher CO2 levels indoors bring on many of the same symptoms defined in sick building syndrome. On the contrary, monitoring CO2 indoors has been stated to dramatically reduce these specific illnesses.

Monitoring Indoor Air with CO2 Sensors

It’s important to know how to discern whether your building has poor IAQ and this can be done by using CO2 monitors to take readings of your workspace.

For instance, devices like CO2 indoor air quality monitors work great for maintaining peace of mind and having a device to indicate when ventilation is required or the need to open a window is vital.

Additionally, If you notice you become tired frequently, nauseated, or suffer from constant headaches or bodily discomfort – you should consider checking the CO2 levels in your workspace. The technology within CO2 technologies is created by use of a small infrared light or lasers which identifies the concentrations of CO2 in any given space. These best-in-class technologies are sought after and often referred to as Non-Dispersive Infrared (NDIR) technology.

Additional guidelines to aid in improving indoor air quality are as follows:

  • Open a nearby window, or doors to allow ventilation 
  • Avoid using irritants and pollutants like aerosols, perfumes, or plugins
  • Add live plants to your workspace or home
  • Take breaks often by stepping outside for fresh air
  • Repair or upgrade HVAC systems
  • Purchase air purifiers to reduce particulate matter or contaminants

Carbon Dioxide Monitoring is Important

To provide further perspective, the staff at CO2Meter frequently receives  e-mails from customers who have implemented CO2 monitors into their indoor space and are surprised by the reading their new CO2 meter has indicated.

They've found that high CO2 levels indoors can have a direct impact on their quality of life. Here are some examples we would like to share:

High CO2 levels indoors in the workplace

CO2Meter TIM10 Desktop CO2, Temp, and Relative Humidity Monitor

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 (CO2).”

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 20’x 8’ room watching a 2 hour movie, the CO2 concentration went from 400ppm to 2,000ppm by the end of the movie.”

Children sick, tired at school

Aranet4PRO Indoor Air Quality Monitor for Classrooms

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

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.

Ensuring Improved Indoor Air Quality

While it is obvious that high carbon dioxide concentrations cannot explain every sickness, it is worth considering. Just beginning the discussion around indoor air quality can be as simple as sharing an email with resources to approaching the topic alongside colleagues with enthusiasm rather than criticism. 

Encouraging changes like implementing a Indoor Air Quality CO2 Monitor, adding live plants and opening windows will allow others to see immediate benefits reducing fatigue, optimizing performance, and gaining back productivity in the workplace. 

For more information surrounding indoor air quality solutions, contact us today










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