CO2: impact on health and well-being at work

Indoor air quality: the impact of CO2 on health and well-being at work

According to a study by the OQAI, indoor air is on average 5 to 7 times more polluted than outdoor air, even though we spend 80 to 90% of our time indoors, mainly in our workplace. This is due to many factors and pollutants that can have an impact on our health. To name but one, CO2, which is one of these factors, very present in buildings.

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CO2, a greenhouse gas

CO2 is the fourth most present gas in the Earth’s atmosphere, representing 77% of  greenhouse gas¹ (GHG) emissions. It is a colorless, odorless and harmless gas in a normal concentration range.

There are two types of CO2 concentration:

CO2 - human activity
  • The concentration of CO2 emitted by human activities : 

Mainly caused by the use of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) and land use change (agriculture and deforestation). Moreover, it is produced by the transport sector, industry and housing. These emissions increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and consequently increase global warming.

CO2 - human respiration - IAQ
  • The concentration of CO2 emitted by human respiration: 

The latter has no impact on global warming, unlike human activities. In indoor air, the concentration of CO2 is used as an indicator of the level of air confinement since it is extremely dependent on human occupation and air renewal in the building or room.

It is measured in ppm (parts per million) or µg/m3. Indoor CO2 levels are generally higher than outdoor levels due to CO2 exhaled by occupants. It should be noted that there can be harmful impacts when concentrations are higher than about 1000 ppm such as health risks and reduced work efficiency.

Indoor Carbon dioxide and its impact on the health of occupants?

According to ANSES, the level of carbon dioxide in the indoor air of buildings is usually between 350 and 2500 ppm.

The ANSES recommends to schools and other public places, a sufficient renewal of air to avoid exceeding 1000 ppm. Which is the maximum accepted concentration of carbon dioxide in the air.

Indeed, an exposure of only 1000 ppm is enough to notice harmful effects and can lead to more serious consequences on health, especially if the exposure to the recommended CO2 concentrations is not respected.

Air polluted by CO2 consequences 

As can be seen in the table above, high exposure to CO2 have negative effects on the efficiency and productivity of employees, and on their health. It proved that good air quality with controlled confinement improves cognitive abilities and reduces absenteeism.

CO2 and SARS-COV-2

Monitoring the air quality of a room has become essential to limit the spread of COVID-19 in work spaces and establishments gathering the public.

The HCSP (High Council for Public Health) and the Ministry of Labor, have updated their version of the health protocol in companies and asked each employer to measure the good quality of the air to insure that the carbon dioxide level is accepted. 

Indeed, according to recent expert reports from the HSCP and INRS, the control of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is an essential element of prevention to reduce the risk of transmission.

To minimize the risk of airborne transmission of viruses, CO2 levels should be as possible in all indoor spaces. It is recommended to stay close to 400 ppm, (outdoor CO2 concentration), and below 800 ppm. If the threshold is exceeded, it is recommended to leave the room and to renew the air. 

How to improve indoor air quality and the impact of CO2?

The managers of establishments are required by law and must take into consideration the atmosphere in which the occupants are. In addition to respecting the policy of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), worrying about the quality of indoor air in companies is required to optimize the working environment and act positively on the Quality of Life at Work (QWL).

To ensure the health and comfort of people present in institutions – in companies as in schools – there are several ways to analyze the rate of CO2 :

  • Air the rooms: it is recommended to open the windows and the doors regularly to reduce the effects of confinement.
  • Have a good ventilation: an efficient ventilation system is recommended to ensure a good air renewal.
  • Controlling pollution sources: there are many sources of pollution and it is important to limit them. It is essential to choose the furniture carefully, to use “healthy” cleaning products or to isolate the photocopiers etc. More information here.
  • Take measurements using air quality sensors: these sensors measure the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants levels in the room to take the right decisions and apply adapted corrective measures.

Meersens proposes the deployment of sensors to monitor data related to indoor air quality in buildings. With these sensors, it is possible to know in real time the temperature, humidity, fine particles, gases (CO2, VOCs) …

These data can then be found on our monitoring platform Meersens and keep a history.

We make the invisible visible to protect your resources and mitigate risks, thus ensuring the health and comfort of populations.

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