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Can poor air quality make you dumber?

Indoor air quality can affect your life in a variety of ways, from the severity of your allergies to how well you sleep. Now, research shows a correlation between both your on-the-job performance and ability to think clearly, and the air you breathe while you’re at the office. 

The study, conducted by Harvard and Syracuse Universities, looked at the effect of indoor air quality on higher-order cognitive functioning. To that end, the team simulated indoor environments with different conditions, from the amount of ventilation to the level of carbon dioxide. Twenty-four participants spent six full work days switching back and forth between “typical” office environments with high concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and “green” office environments with low concentrations of VOCs, better ventilation, reduced levels of carbon dioxide and reduced emissions from office products.

The findings: Cognitive function scores were significantly better under the green conditions than the conventional environment—on average, 61 percent better. And doubling ventilation performance increased scores by more than 100 percent.

The findings align with the conclusions of other research. In another study, researchers gave workers in ten buildings, six of them green-certified, a cognitive function test of higher order decision-making twice in the same week. Compared to participants in the conventional locations, those in the green-certified buildings scored 26 percent higher on cognitive function tests and had 30 percent fewer sick building symptoms.

One way to protect the air where you work and live is by adding a smart air purifier with a HEPA filter, like Airmega. It can filter up to 99.97 percent of VOCs and particulate matter, which can be harmful to your health, helping you to enjoy a healthier—and potentially more productive—time at work or at home.