A new study conducted by Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health was published on September 9 in the Environmental Research Letters. The study was carried out over a year and looked into the link between short-term exposure to fine particulate matter and acute decreases in cognitive function.
The study involved 300 office employees across 6 different countries who were in the 18-65 age group. The participants in the study worked for at least 3 days a week in an office where they were assigned a workstation that was equipped with an environmental sensor to collect real-time data of PM2.5 and CO2. Each participant also had to install a custom-designed app for the study on their phone to test cognitive abilities.
The data collected during the study showed that higher concentrations of PM2.5 and lower ventilation rates are quite closely correlated with slower response times and reduced accuracy on cognitive tests. It was observed by the research team that cognitive function was impaired at concentrations of PM2.5 and CO2 that are considered normal in indoor environments. This study conclusively proves that indoor pollution not only affects health but also reduces the productivity of workers.
What is PM2.5?
Particulate Matter or PM refers to any solid particle that is light enough to be suspended in the air. Particulate matter is classified according to its diameter in microns, i.e., PM10, PM2.5, and PM1. PM2.5 is among the most common types of particulate matter that is ever-present around us. It has a diameter of fewer than 2.5 microns and can cause serious long-term health damage when inhaled.
PM2.5 can come from a wide variety of sources such as car exhaust, wildfire smoke, etc. Some of the respiratory droplets that spread Covid 19 are also classified as PM2.5 as their diameter is less than 2.5 microns. PM2.5 can cause decreased cognitive function, asthma, COPD, and other respiratory diseases.
Sources of Indoor Pollution
Some studies suggest that indoor air can be up to 50 times more polluted than outdoor air and often this is due to a lack of proper ventilation. Indoor pollution in office and residential buildings can come from a wide variety of sources such as outdoor sources, cleaning chemicals, air fresheners, furniture, and furnishings.
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