The relationships between classroom air quality and children’s performance in school

Pawel Wargocki*, Jose Ali Porras-Salazar, Sergio Contreras-Espinoza, William Bahnfleth

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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    The data from published studies were used to derive systematic relationships between learning outcomes and air quality in classrooms. Psychological tests measuring cognitive abilities and skills, school tasks including mathematical and language-based tasks, rating schemes, and tests used to assess progress in learning including end-ofyear grades and exam scores were used to quantify learning outcomes. Short-term sick leave was also included because it may influence progress in learning. Classroom indoor air quality was characterized by the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2). For psychological tests and school tasks, fractional changes in performance were regressed against the average concentrations of CO2 at which they occurred; all data reported in studies meeting the inclusion criteria were used to derive the relationship, regardless of whether the change in performance was statistically significant at the examined levels of classroom air quality. The analysis predicts that reducing CO2 concentration from 2,100 ppm to 900 ppm would improve the performance of psychological tests and school tasks by 12% with respect to the speed at which the tasks are performed and by 2% with respect to errors made. For other learning outcomes and short-term sick leave, only the relationships published in the original studies were available. They were therefore used to make predictions. These relationships show that reducing the CO2 concentration from 2,300 ppm to 900 ppm would improve performance on the tests used to assess progress in learning by 5% and that reducing CO2 from 4,100 ppm to 1,000 ppm would increase daily attendance by 2.5%. These results suggest that increasing the ventilation rate in classrooms in the range from 2 L/s-person to 10 L/sperson can bring significant benefits in terms of learning performance and pupil attendance; no data are available for higher rates. The results provide a strong incentive for improving classroom air quality and can be used in cost-benefit analyses.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number106749
    JournalBuilding and Environment
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    • Children
    • Learning
    • Cognitive performance
    • Elementary schools
    • Carbon dioxide


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