Researchers have found that moderately high indoor concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) can significantly impair people’s decision-making performance. These results have implications for schools and office buildings with high occupant density and windows that do not open. They may also have implications for ALL of us, if climate change causes CO2 levels to continue to build up in the atmosphere–we may end up being dumber just at the time when we need to get SMARTER!

On nine scales of decision-making performance, the most dramatic declines, in which subjects were rated as "dysfunctional," were for taking initiative and thinking strategically. Researcher William Fisk says, "These results, which were quite unambiguous, were surprising."

The primary source of indoor CO2 is exhaled human breath. Researcher Mark Mendell says, "As there’s a drive for increasing energy efficiency, there’s a push for making buildings tighter and less expensive to run. There’s some risk that, in that process, adverse effects on occupants will be ignored. One way to make sure occupants get the attention they deserve is to point out adverse economic impacts of poor indoor air quality. If people can’t think or perform as well, that could obviously have adverse economic impacts."

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Fisk says, "People who are employers who want to get the most of their workforce would want to pay attention to this."

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