You may work in a high risk environment without knowing
October 2023 • 2 min read
Indoor air can be up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air and one of the most critical pollutants of indoor air is Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Elevated CO2 levels are also associated with SBS (Sick Building Syndrome).
Why high Carbon Dioxide levels are so bad
The major source of CO2 indoors is breathing. Therefore, crowded spaces tend to have high CO2 levels and it shouldn't come as a surprise that CO2 levels are the highest during the late afternoon. Insufficient ventilation also leads to elevated CO2 levels. AirGuard's CO2 tests also show that many office buildings in Hong Kong have elevated CO2 levels.
“According to the Environmental Protection Department Hong Kong, indoor CO2 levels are regarded as high when they are greater than 1000ppm.”
— THE IAQ INFORMATION CENTRE
Why should we be concerned about high CO2 levels?
When we breathe air with a high CO2 level, the CO2 in our blood increases and the amount of oxygen (O2) decreases - in other words, CO2 displaces O2 in our blood. High levels of CO2 reduce our ability to remember and concentrate, and increase the likelihood of headaches and sleeping difficulties. Research also shows that high CO2 levels cause brain metabolism and neural activity to decrease, with extreme concentrations causing sluggish reflexes, respiratory difficulties and even a rapid loss of consciousness.
“When we breathe air with a high CO2 level, the CO2 level in our blood increases and the amount of oxygen (O2) decreases.”
High CO2 levels will result in us breathing in some of the air exhaled by other people, so increasing the transmission risk of bacterial and viral infections, including COVID-19. Long-term exposure to unhealthy CO2 levels may also cause higher blood pressure and increased lung dead space, the volume of air where gas exchange does not occur. This is especially harmful for people with pulmonary or cardiac problems.
“High-level CO2 decreases the ability to remember and concentrate, and increases the risk of headaches and sleeping difficulties.”
CO2 in the built environment
Symptoms of high CO2 levels such as headaches and concentration difficulties directly impact employee productivity and wellbeing. An office environment with elevated CO2 levels results in worse employee performance and poorer employee engagement.
Did you know that workplace productivity and student academic performance have been shown to decline when CO2 levels are high?
How to manage CO2 levels?
Managing starts with measuring - air management systems and IAQ sensors are key in detecting elevated CO2 levels as the gas itself is colourless and odourless.
In our next blog post we will introduce an efficient yet visually appealing way to mitigate CO2 levels indoors.