Literature Survey on the Effects of Pure Carbon Dioxide on Health, Comfort and Performance

Xiaojing Zhang, Pawel Wargocki, Zhiwei Lian

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the components of the earth atmosphere. It is also a significant human metabolite. It is colourless and odourless gas. The background levels of CO2 in ambient air are about 350-400 ppm. Its concentration in buildings can be an order of magnitude higher reaching even 4,000-4,500 ppm (Menå and Larsen, 2010). The indoor levels of CO2 depend mainly on human occupancy (CO2 producing processes) and the frequency of air renewal (outdoor air exchange rate). Since studies of Pettenkofer in the 19th century, the levels of indoor CO2 have been used as an indicator of air quality in buildings (Pettenkofer, 1858), as well as quantity and effectiveness of ventilation in the presence of people; the levels above 1,000 ppm have been generally considered to cause unacceptable air quality; the levels above 2,000 ppm are considered as the levels requiring actionable decisions. The 8-hour permissible occupational exposure level to CO2 is set at 5,000 ppm (ACGIH, 2011). Although in many studies CO2 has been related with health symptoms, comfort and performance of office work and schoolwork, it in itself has traditionally been assumed innocuous at the typical levels indoors; in these studies, CO2 was merely a proxy for elevated exposure levels to air pollutants, and an indicator of inadequate outdoor air ventilation and poor indoor air quality. Two recent experiments suggest however that the exposure to pure CO2 at the levels typically occurring indoors and lower than the levels prescribed as permissible by the occupational standards can have negative effects on some aspects of human performance, in particular on tasks requiring concentration (Kajtar et al., 2006) and on tasks, in which decision should be taken (Satish et al., 2012). The present paper reports the results of the literature survey aimed to summarize the published evidence on the effects of pure CO2 on humans and, if possible, to suggest the underlying mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of Indoor Air 2014
Number of pages3
PublisherInternational Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate
Publication date2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Event13th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality and Climate - University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Duration: 7 Jul 201412 Jul 2014
Conference number: 13


Conference13th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality and Climate
LocationUniversity of Hong Kong
CountryHong Kong
CityHong Kong
Internet address


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Health
  • Comfort
  • Performance
  • Review


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