The Impact of Indoor Air Quality on Cognitive Function

Indoor air quality impacts our health and cognitive function. Here's your guide on brain health and how air quality can affect it.

Americans spend most of their time indoors (up to 90% before the pandemic hit), and much of this time is in office and industrial settings. Employers should strongly consider how indoor air quality impacts their employees in a post-COVID world. Not only will this improve their well-being, but it will also improve employee productivity and cognitive performance. 

Indoor Air Quality and Cognitive Performance

In recent years, studies have found a direct connection between poor indoor air quality and cognitive performance

One Harvard study linked poor office air quality with reduced cognitive function. In particular, they found that particulate matter levels as little as 2.5 contributed to significant acute effects on cognitive performance when combined with poor ventilation, including slower response times and sharp reductions in cognitive function. 

Particulate Matter 2.5 vs. Particulate Matter 10


Due to lowered ventilation rates, office environments have naturally elevated particulate matter, which leads to poor indoor air quality. Building operations and facility managers (FMs) must find ways to filter and ventilate polluted air from indoor spaces and provide fresh, clean air to improve occupant health.

The Importance of Indoor Air Pollution and Cognitive Development Impacts

Health and workplace safety has been a primary concern through the COVID pandemic, with facility managers needing to implement new safety protocols to keep building occupants safe and limit indoor pollutant exposures. 

However, even after the pandemic dies down, workplace operators need to consider the health impacts of poor environmental quality, including the effects of indoor air quality and cognitive performance. 

Cognitive performance includes processing information, responding to social cues, and performing other cognitive tasks. A decrease in cognitive performance can inhibit learning, functionality, and decision-making. It can also eventually contribute to long-term brain health conditions.

Because indoor air quality can impact school health and workplace safety during and after the COVID pandemic, building managers need to consider comprehensive ways of improving air quality and creating healthy buildings. 

CNBC Interview with Joseph Allen on the impact of IAQ on employees and workplace settings (Source: CNBC 11-6-21)

Best Practices for Cleaner Air in Workplace Settings

Sources of poor air quality can come from many different sources. Some include poor ventilation and higher rates of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions from indoor products like furniture, carpets, copiers, and more. All these sources can dramatically impact your occupants' cognitive health.

There are several solutions to help clean the air, and what you choose to implement will depend on your building or facility design and budget. For example, portable air purification systems can be added easily into schools and businesses to clean indoor environments. 

In addition to portable systems, there are long-term solutions, such as inline purification, also known as induct HVAC air purification, which can provide a more permanent way of providing good air quality. 

A business could also consider implementing a UVC sanitizing robot to provide fast, chemical-free, hospital-grade air and surface disinfection. UV-C disinfection is a great way to help reduce the spread of seasonal illnesses and viruses and clean the air. 

Improve Cognitive Function With Better Air Through Sanalife

As we come to learn more about the health impacts of the air we breathe, businesses, schools, and government buildings need to invest in customized environmental quality solutions. Providing the best indoor environment will help your building's occupants' overall health and wellness, leading to improved overall cognitive health. 

At Sanalife, we're on a mission to make every indoor space safer. We offer white-glove service, including custom design to help you improve your indoor air quality with our portable air purifiers, HVAC air purification, and UVC disinfection robot solutions. If you need help improving your indoor environmental quality, our team is here to help. Because improving your IEQ leads to better cognitive health.

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