It’s no secret that a clean work environment fosters productivity amongst employees, but did you know that there is pollution even in indoor air that can have negative effects on the cognitive functioning of employees? Monitoring indoor air quality is integral to maintaining clean, healthy air but the importance is often overlooked by facility administrators in commercial buildings and office spaces. According to Harvard researchers, neglecting indoor air quality is proving to be a bigger mistake than you might think, according to a 2021 study from Harvard researchers.
A recent Harvard study on the cognitive effects of PM2.5 and CO2 levels in the indoor air of office spaces found that “increased concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and lower ventilation rates (measured using carbon dioxide (CO2) levels as a proxy) were associated with slower response times and reduced accuracy on a series of cognitive tests.”
So, what exactly is PM2.5 and why is it bad to have high levels of it in our indoor air? Well, PM stands for particulate matter, which is basically microscopic size droplets of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air. The 2.5 in PM2.5 refers to the size, in diameter, of the microns which are inhalable matter. Particle size with a diameter of 10 microns or less is inhalable so PM2.5 can be hard to detect without proper indoor air quality (IAQ) sensors. When levels of PM2.5 are high in the air and inhaled into the lungs adverse health effects occur according to the California Air Resources Board.
IAQ monitoring systems were installed in each office building to monitor levels of PM2.5 and CO2. When researchers were alerted of a certain increase or decrease in PM2.5 and CO2 levels, participants were prompted to complete tests and surveys. One of the tests required employees to identify certain colors in words, which tested their ability to identify certain stimuli while other irrelevant stimuli were also present. Response times and accuracy decreased when levels of PM2.5 and CO2 increased. The other test was arithmetic-based, and researchers found that response time slowed with increased CO2 levels and accuracy went down with increased levels of CO2 and PM2.5. Similarly, the California Air Resources Board also stated, “PM2.5 is associated with the greatest proportion of adverse health effects related to air pollution, both in the United States and world-wide based on the World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Disease Project”
Word and Colors Test Example (Stroop Test)
This study has become more relevant due to the large amount of time office employees spend inhaling indoor air. IAQ in commercial buildings has greater effects than you might initially think. qlair recognizes the importance of IAQ and is proud to help you improve your employees’ experience by monitoring your IAQ. Not only does qlair allow administrators to improve their IAQ with actionable insights, but qlair can also save you money with filter life cycle monitoring of your HVAC system. qlair’s platform lets you know the best times to change your HVAC filters, so your system is never overworked, and you are not buying more filters than you need to. Monitoring your IAQ does not have to be hard, with qlair you can check your IAQ from your computer or smartphone with our platform.