It is self-evident that good indoor air quality (IAQ) improves lung health. But did you know that good IAQ
can improve cognitive function? If you are experiencing brain fog at the office, maybe it isn’t the lack of
A recent article from researchers at Harvard found that exposure to key air quality contaminants, PM2.5
and carbon dioxide, was associated with slower response times and reduced accuracy on cognitive tests.
They conducted the research in offices across six different countries. This study corroborates other
research published by the same group, collectively known as the “CogFx Study”. The researchers
previously found that improved IAQ resulted in a doubling of cognitive function test scores.
Getting the Most out of your Team
If you manage a team of individuals, you are always looking for ways to improve work performance.
Some employers like stocking the fridge with snacks or adding a ping pong table to build camaraderie.
However, improving indoor air quality should be a serious consideration. Air quality is not a simple line
in the sand that you need to cross and then stop worrying about it. All buildings can benefit from a cycle
of continuous improvement of air quality. Improvements to air quality will pay for themselves with
improved well-being and productivity.
How Do You Improve Air Quality?
To reduce levels of PM2.5 and carbon dioxide, you should start by evaluating the building’s filtration and
ventilation system. PM2.5 is particulate matter that is very small in size, with a diameter of 2.5
micrometers or less. These small particles cannot be easily removed with low-grade filters commonly
found in commercial buildings. Filter efficiency is evaluated using a minimum efficiency reporting value
(MERV) which is described in ASHRAE Standard 52.2. Indoor Science recommends a minimum filter
efficiency of MERV 11 for most buildings. Before increasing filter efficiencies, it is important to evaluate
the system’s ability to handle the additional pressure drop from improved filters.
For reducing carbon dioxide, the best method is dilution using outdoor air ventilation. The source of
carbon dioxide is people breathing and elevated levels are associated with a lack of proper ventilation.
Although ventilation is a key solution, it is very complex. Introducing additional outdoor air costs money,
especially when it is very hot or cold outside. Outdoor humidity also creates challenges to increasing
Due to the complexities of improving filtration and ventilation, buildings should start with a
comprehensive assessment of their indoor environmental quality. Let Indoor Science evaluate your
property and come up with a plan of action. Our goal is to improve your team’s cognitive function, well-
being, and productivity.