Is CO2 Killing you? A case study.
Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 | Categories: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Commercial Inspections, Toxic Mold,Indoor Air Quality | No Comments
Not feeling well indoors? Carbon dioxide may be the cause.
• High levels of carbon dioxide in offices and classrooms could be affecting your concentration and decisions
• High levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) indoors can cause fatigue, nausea, headaches and loss of attention. In extreme cases brain damage and death.
• Result of poor ventilation and cramming more people into the same-sized space
• May be the reason so many of us doze off in meetings
Scientists have found that high levels of carbon dioxide in our offices, classrooms and homes could be affecting our health, concentration and decision-making abilities. In our practice testing air quality and interviewing thousands of clients we found that CO2 levels have a huge impact on “Bad Indoor Air”.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
The primary source of indoor carbon dioxide is humans.
While typical outdoor concentrations of CO2 are under 350 parts per million (ppm), indoor concentrations can go up to several thousand ppm.
Higher levels indoors is usually due to poor ventilation. Poor ventilation and air exchange is often the result of our efforts to make our structures more energy efficient. In our quest for energy efficiency we’ve ended up keeping fresh air out, and increased bad air inside.
CO2 Levels and effects:
Carbon Dioxide is measured in Parts Per Million (PPM).
250 to 350 ppm- Background “Normal” outdoor air levels.
350 to 1,000 ppm- Typical levels found indoors in occupied spaces with good air exchange.
1,000 to 2,000 ppm- Levels associated with complaints of drowsiness and poor air quality.
2,000 to 5,000 ppm- Levels associated with headaches, sleepiness and stagnant, stale, stuffy air. Poor concentration, loss of attention. Increased heart rate and slight nausea may also be present.
>5,000 ppm- Exposure may lead to serious oxygen deprivation resulting in permanent brain damage, coma and even death.
State University of New York and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California found that carbon dioxide concentrations in office buildings normally don’t exceed 1,000 ppm, except in meeting rooms, when groups of people gather for extended periods of time. (Which may partly explain why it’s so hard to stay awake in meetings.)
In classrooms, concentrations frequently exceed 1,000 ppm and occasionally exceed 3,000 ppm.
While these levels weren’t found to be dangerous to health, they did significantly impair people’s ability to think or make decisions.
What we have found: A Case Study
In our practice we are often called upon to find answers to our clients mysterious Indoor Air Quality concerns. We ask specific questions about our clients heath and experience in the building. Often times the combination of our inspection and clients answer’s point us to poor air circulation and CO2 levels.
We recently were called in to perform and assessment by a commercial office client to determine the source (if any) some of their clerical staff.
Our survey found that all of those persons complaining of fatigue, headaches, dizziness and nausea were located in a portion of cubicles in a small segregated office space (12 x 26) served by one HVAC unit. The space was staffed by 3 to 4 clerical staff that handled a phone bank Monday thru Friday 8 AM to 5PM.
Complaints all stated that they felt well on Monday morning but felt progressively worse as the day and the work week went on.
We performed an Indoor Air Inspection of the office including Mold Scans, Air Sampling and Infrared Thermal Imaging of the entire office. Nothing stood out as a smoking gun.
During our time in the office we noted that the space “felt” stuffy.
When we performed a CO2 sampling we found our answer. Immediate sample in the office cubical area showed CO2 levels of 2,950 ppm.
Other areas of the office showed CO2 levels in the 870 to 900 ppm range.
Exterior control sample indicated a level of 235 ppm.
The measurements bore out the concerns of the workers in the segregated work space.
We recommended monitoring CO2 levels for a seven day period which would include a typically staff work week and non use weekend period.
What we found was most interesting.
Monday morning at 9:00 AM (start of work week) CO2 levels were 300 ppm. Levels increased steadily thru the day reaching 1,880 ppm.
Tuesday levels starting at 9:00 AM went from 1,220 ppm to 1,900 ppm at the end of the work day.
Like a battery charging so the levels continued to elevate thru Friday late afternoon when they peaked at 5,300 ppm.
No wonder the workers felt ill.
Our Quest For Energy Efficiency May Be Killing Us
‘As there’s a drive for increasing energy efficiency, there’s a push for making buildings tighter and less expensive to run,’ said Dr Mendell.
‘There’s some risk that, in that process, adverse effects on occupants will be ignored. If people can’t think or perform as well, that could obviously have adverse economic impacts.’
The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Volunteer Mold and Indoor Air Quality Services in Knoxville, TN performs CO2 testing and monitoring in addition to a vast array of indoor air quality services.
Call Bob Byrne at Volunteer Mold and Indoor Air Quality Services to discuss your home or work place concern.