Lack of fresh air affects ability to make decisions

thinkWORKING in a well-ventilated ‘green’ office can help boost your brainpower, researchers have found.

People whose desk space is well ventilated with below average indoor pollution and carbon dioxide levels, showed more ability to think, understand, remember and learn, according to a study.

It suggests that the indoor environmental quality can have a profound impact on the decision-making and performance of workers.

Researchers at Harvard looked at the decision-making abilities of 24 people, who were exposed to different indoor working conditions over six days.

The findings, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, showed those with higher levels of pollutants were less able.

Participants scored an average 61 percent higher while working in buildings with low pollution levels, compared to days working in a conventional building. They were tested on everything from basic tasks to crisis response and information seeking.

When low carbon dioxide levels were combined with lower pollutants in buildings, cognitive scores were 101 percent higher than in conventional buildings, which researchers said was significant as it is not typically thought of as a direct indoor pollutant.

Dr. Joseph Allen, director of the healthy buildings program at the Harvard Centre for Health and the Global Environment, said it was an area that had been largely ignored.

“We spend 90 per cent of our time indoors and 90 per cent of the cost of a building are the occupants, yet indoor environmental quality and its impact on health and productivity are often an afterthought,” he said.

“These results suggest even modest improvements to indoor environmental quality may have a profound impact on the decision making performance of workers.”

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