Cognitive Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality
By Nikeanne Aquino
Research has shown that working in a room with poor indoor air significantly reduces cognitive productivity. These findings call for more attention to proper ventilation in spaces where cognitive performance is critical, such as classrooms, offices, and homes. We know that pollution has a direct and often negative impact on our health, but it is less well known that pollution affects human cognitive function. Improving air quality not only makes us healthier but also makes us smarter.
Over the years, buildings became more airtight and more energy efficient than ever before. Though airtight construction is designed to prevent air from leaking in or out of the building and maintain cooling and heating. Unfortunately, this traps in airborne pollutants. And people exposed to indoor air pollution have a higher risk of cognitive dysfunction than the general population (27.1%, which is significantly higher than the overall population).
Researchers from Harvard conducted a study on the cognitive skills of those working in conventional workplace airtight spaces and those in “green” buildings with clean air. They found that not only did the subjects do better on the cognitive tests when working in the “green” building, but they did considerably better.
Improved brain function is now another health factor attributed to the importance of clean air. Attention has to be paid to air quality not just at home and the office, but additionally in areas like classrooms and hospitals, where decision making skills might be negatively affected.