Elevated Indoor Carbon Dioxide Impairs Decision-Making Performance
Berkeley Lab researchers found that even moderately elevated levels of indoor carbon dioxide resulted in lower scores on six of nine scales of human decision-making performance. (Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
Overturning decades of conventional wisdom, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have found that moderately high indoor concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) can significantly impair people’s decision-making performance. The results were unexpected and may have particular implications for schools and other spaces with high occupant density.
On nine scales of decision-making performance, test subjects showed significant reductions on six of the scales at CO2 levels of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) and large reductions on seven of the scales at 2,500 ppm. The most dramatic declines in performance, in which subjects were rated as “dysfunctional,” were for taking initiative and thinking strategically. “Previous studies have looked at 10,000 ppm, 20,000 ppm; that’s the level at which scientists thought effects started,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Mark Mendell, also a co-author of the study. “That’s why these findings are so startling.”
While the results need to be replicated in a larger study, they point to possible economic consequences of pursuing energy efficient buildings without regard to occupants. “As there’s a drive for increasing energy efficiency, there’s a push for making buildings tighter and less expensive to run,” said Mendell. “There’s some risk that, in that process, adverse effects on occupants will be ignored. One way to make sure occupants get the attention they deserve is to point out adverse economic impacts of poor indoor air quality. If people can’t think or perform as well, that could obviously have adverse economic impacts.”
The primary source of indoor CO2 is humans….
- Elevated indoor carbon dioxide impairs decision-making performance (phys.org)
- Elevated indoor carbon dioxide impairs decision-making performance (rdmag.com)
- Elevated indoor carbon dioxide impairs decision-making performance (sciencedaily.com)
- Claim: CO2 makes you stupid? Ask a submariner that question (wattsupwiththat.com)
- High CO2 Levels Indoors Impair Cognition (treehugger.com)
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