Does Indoor Pollution Slow Your Brain?
People who work in well-ventilated offices may have better cognitive function than those who work where they are more exposed to indoor pollution trapped in conventional airtight office buildings, concludes a study at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The researchers assessed the decision-making performance of 24 participants from various professions, while working in a controlled office environment. In a double-blind study, participants performed their normal work activities three days a week for two consecutive weeks in randomly assigned cubicles in one of two nearly identical office environments.
For six days, while performing their normal work, participants were exposed to various simulated building conditions: conventional conditions with relatively high concentrations of indoor pollutants, green conditions with low pollutant concentrations; “green+” conditions with enhanced ventilation; and conditions with artificially elevated levels of carbon dioxide, independent of ventilation.
Then, at 3 p.m. each day, they performed 1.5-hour cognitive tests using Strategic Management Simulation (SMS) software designed to test the effectiveness and decision-making abilities of management-level employees.
The results showed that compared with those working in conventional environments, cognitive performance scores for those in the green+ environments (those with enhanced ventilation) were, on average, twice as high, and scores for those in the green environments were 61 percent higher.
The researchers said their findings suggest that even modest improvements to indoor environmental quality could have a big impact on the decision-making performance of workers.