Got Your Air Purifiers on Full Blast? Watch Out for Carbon Dioxide

In sealed rooms carbon dioxide levels can rise really fast, leading to headaches, drowsiness, reduced productivity. 

Health News
3 min read
 Carbon dioxide levels can rise quickly in sealed rooms. 

The pollution economy means you need to stock up on masks, buy AQI monitors and fit your homes and offices with air purifiers. There’s just one problem. While air purifiers help in reducing some pollutants like PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter), they do little to control other harmful gases - like sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide etc, according to BreatheEasy CEO Barun Aggarwal. That’s because a 50 gram carbon filter, that’s fitted in these purifiers, doesn’t work against these harmful gases.

Along with all this, air purifiers don’t help in reducing carbon dioxide levels. So in a sealed home or office with no ventilation, and a lot of people working in cramped spaces, carbon dioxide levels can rise rapidly.

High CO2 Levels = Reduced Productivity

According to a study conducted by BreatheEasy, between 2018 and 2019, carbon dioxide levels in houses ranged from a safe 750 ppm to hazardous 3900 ppm.

While outdoor air CO2 concentration mostly ranges between 400ppm to 450ppm in the Indian subcontinent, ISHRAE prescribes that CO2 concentration must never exceed 750ppm.

For CO2 concentration analysis, the study segregated the collected air quality data in 3 categories - Occupied Homes with Air Purification (doors/windows closed), Occupied Homes without Air Purification (doors/windows closed) and Occupied Homes without Air Purification (doors/windows open).

In Occupied Homes with Air Purification (doors/windows closed), the average CO2 concentration obtained was ~2400ppm and in Occupied Homes without Air Purification (doors/windows closed), the average CO2 concentration obtained was ~2380ppm. In both these cases there was no allowance of fresh air into the indoor spaces.

On the contrary, when data for Occupied Homes without Air Purification (doors/windows open) was analysed, the average CO2 concentration obtained was ~600ppm which is well within standard recommendation.

Barun Aggarwal warns, and doctors FIT spoke with agree, that the health effects of breathing such high levels of carbon dioxide can be dangerous. And not good for the economy.

We have seen CO2 levels of 2000 to 3000 ppm. This can lead to headaches, listlessness, drowsiness, reduced brain function and reduced productivity.
Barun Aggarwal, CEO, BreatheEasy

CO2 Levels and Health Effects

Your air purifier cannot control carbon dioxide levels. 
Your air purifier cannot control carbon dioxide levels. 
(Photo: Roshun Povaiah/FIT )

According to this report, this is what inhaling high levels of CO2 can do to you:

  • 250 - 350 ppm: background (normal) outdoor air level.
  • 350 - 1,000 ppm: typical level found in occupied spaces with good air exchange.
  • 1,000 - 2,000 ppm: level associated with complaints of drowsiness and poor air.
  • 2,000 - 5,000 ppm: level associated with headaches, sleepiness, and stagnant, stale, stuffy air. Poor concentration, loss of attention, increased heart rate and slight nausea may also be present.
  • 5,000 ppm: this indicates unusual air conditions where high levels of other gases could also be present. Toxicity or oxygen deprivation could occur. This is the permissible exposure limit for daily workplace exposures.
  • 40,000 ppm: this level is immediately harmful due to oxygen deprivation.

So, How Do You Use Your Air Purifiers?

There are plenty of options in the market. Dr Sharad Joshi, pulmonologist from Max Hospital says keep these things in mind while purchasing one for your home:

Make sure you buy purifiers with hepa filters installed that doesn’t rely of electronic or ionising technology. Purifiers with electronic and ionising tech may clean the air quality, but they are also producing volatile organic compound.

On the other hand, Barun Aggarwal warns that there is no filter that can reduce carbon dioxide levels. He says BreatheEasy has come up with a solution using IQAir machine.

We made a hole in the wall, and connected the machine with a flexible duct. When you start the machine, it pulls in air from outside, that air is filtered through 4 levels, and these filters remove ultra fine particles as well. We are also able to filter harmful gasses. So we end up pulling outside air and carbon dioxide levels remain at safe levels.
Barun Aggarwal

Dr Joshi suggests that along with air purifiers we keep air purifying plants like snake plant, areca palm, money plant and tulsi in the house.

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