ResearchCOGfx Study 3: New global study looks at impact of air quality on cognitive function and health

Research from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health - as part of the COGfx Study series - examines the impact of indoor air quality on how people think and feel.
Content Team3 years ago5 min

New research has found that healthy buildings with enhanced ventilation can improve the cognitive function and health of occupants, suggesting that ventilation and filtration are preeminent healthy building strategies. While the research focused on office employees in commercial buildings, the takeaways are applicable for all indoor environments.

The study, COGfx Study 3: Global Buildings, was led by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as part of the COGfx Study series, which examines the impact of indoor air quality on how people think and feel.

The study concluded that there is a direct relationship between the level of PM2.5 and CO2 exposure and the impact on cognitive function. For every decrease in the levels of exposure through ventilation and filtration, there will be an equal increase in cognitive function. The headline message is that even buildings operating at the industry standard of 1,000 ppm of CO2 can see improvements in cognitive function with increased ventilation.

“As many people move toward returning to offices, schools and commercial buildings, the health, safety and intelligence of indoor environments have come into greater focus,” said Chirag Baijal, Managing Director, Carrier India. (Carrier offers numerous products and services that optimize indoor air quality.)

“The COGfx Study continues to demonstrate that proper ventilation and filtration of indoor environments plays an important role in healthier buildings. At Carrier, we are focused on delivering innovative solutions and services that positively impact the health, productivity and cognitive performance of occupants of India’s buildings.”

The COGfx Study 3: Global Buildings examined the impact of indoor air quality on the cognitive function of office workers across six countries – China, India, Mexico, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. In India, the study included 10 buildings located across Bengaluru, Chennai, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune. The research found that cognitive function declines as the levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon dioxide (CO2) increase. Higher CO2 can be an indicator of poor ventilation in buildings.

Mechanical ventilation impact

Importantly, mechanical ventilation, such as an HVAC system with efficient filtration, can help to protect building occupants from the negative cognitive effects of PM2.5 and CO2. In addition to acute impacts on cognitive function, reducing exposure to PM2.5 is associated with many other health benefits including reductions in cardiovascular disease, asthma attacks, and premature death.

This latest research builds on previous COGfx studies demonstrating that better thinking and better health can be found inside healthier buildings. The first study found cognitive function test scores doubled when study participants were in simulated green building environments with enhanced ventilation as opposed to conventional building environments. The COGfx Study 2 examined real-world building environments in the U.S. and showed that employees in green-certified buildings showed 26% higher cognitive function test scores and 30% fewer sick building symptoms versus buildings that were not green-certified.

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Content Team

Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.

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