In the 1700s, Ben Franklin said, “I am persuaded that no common air from outside is so unwholesome as the air inside a closed room that has been often breathed and not changed.”
Franklin appears to have been more than 250 years ahead of his time when it comes to poor indoor air quality.
A study conducted by researchers at Harvard and Syracuse Universities took 24 “knowledge workers,” – people who were corporate managers, architects, and designers – and studied them while they worked in a controlled environment, from 9 am to 5 pm each day.
During this time, the indoor air quality conditions fluctuated without their knowledge, shifting from:
• An optimized environment where ventilation was increased. Chemicals and products, including cleaning products, that released volatile organic compounds were minimized or eliminated and carbon dioxide levels in the air were reduced.
• The other work environment was a more conventional setting which met minimally accepted IAQ standards.
Each day, the participants took tests measuring their cognitive (thinking) functions.
“We saw higher test scores across nine cognitive function domains when workers were exposed to increased ventilation rates, lower levels of chemicals, and lower carbon dioxide,” reported the researchers.
“The results showed the biggest improvements in areas that tested how workers used the information to make strategic decisions and how they plan, stay prepared, and strategize during crises. These are exactly the skills needed to be productive in the knowledge economy.”
The researchers then conducted a second test involving 100 knowledge workers. This one to evaluate the influence of using green-certified cleaning solutions. Green cleaning solutions are designed to protect IAQ.
“We found that workers in buildings that used green certified [cleaning solutions] scored higher on the tests,” the scientists reported.
“The takeaway is simple,” said Mike Watt, Director of Training for Avmor. “Better indoor air quality results in better [worker] performance, something the professional cleaning industry has known for years.”