What We Measure: Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

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January 5, 2022

Crowded classrooms, meetings in closed door conference rooms, working from your makeshift WFH office with poor ventilation - all of these scenarios can cause high CO2 and significant decreases in cognition and productivity.

What is carbon dioxide?
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas that is measured in parts per million (ppm). A by-product of our metabolic process – we add CO2 into the air every time we exhale – it’s often used as an indicator of adequate building ventilation.

We expect CO2 levels of 350 to 1,000 ppm in well ventilated indoor spaces. CO2 levels of 1,000 to 2,000 ppm are associated with complaints of drowsiness and poor air. While levels of 2,000 to 5,000 are associated with headaches, poor concentration, and loss of attention.


Why measure CO2?
When lots of people are in a small space, the CO2 being produced becomes more concentrated. Most modern buildings are designed to be airtight (to improve energy efficiency), which means that natural airflow is limited, and proper ventilation is key. With inadequate ventilation, CO2 concentrations can increase to around 2,500 ppm — about five times higher than what’s considered healthy. In some schools, researchers have recorded CO2 levels upwards of 5,000 ppm.

Crowded spaces lead to clouded thinking
Increased levels of CO2 can lead to poor decision making, slower reaction times and increased tiredness among employees. One study showed that employees worked 60% faster with lower levels of CO2 and their test scores improved by up to 12%.

CO2 contributes to Sick Building Syndrome
Spaces that are not well ventilated can cause a variety of symptoms — often called sick building syndrome (SBS) — such as headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea. SBS has been known to decrease employee productivity and lead to higher absentee rates.

Know what’s in the air you’re breathing
One of the easiest ways to track changes in CO2 levels is with Awair Omni. In addition to providing real-time insight into your air quality, tracking indoor pollution will help you monitor the performance of your ventilation system and what behaviors are impacting your health and productivity.