Breath easy... really!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Imagine my surprise a couple of years ago when I strolled into the office and found out that our office does regular monitoring of the CO2 levels in classrooms. I wasn't surprised that we did it, I mean this only makes sense right? People exhale CO2 with every breath and if not monitored it can really accumulate. No I was surprised that we won an award for doing it.

It turns out that not very many, if any, other institutions do this. I was flabbergasted to say the least. CO2 is natural occurring gas that has of course recently found notoriety because of Climate Change. Of course too much CO2 can have dramatic impacts on the Earth's capacity to retain heat, but it can also kill you if the concentrations are too high.

I am being a tad melodramatic here; the concentrations needed to actually kill a human are ridiculously high. But that doesn't mean that the concentrations that are present in your typical indoor environment can't cause major discomfort.

At 1% CO2 in the environment (and this is indoors) there are basically no health impacts. At 2% some people are susceptible to headaches after consistent longterm exposure. At 3% we start seeing the seal problems (including change in blood pressure, fatigue, migraines, and mild performance impairment). Needless to say we want to keep ourselves in the 1% range.

So you might notice one day, while you are in class, someone sitting at the back of the room with a small monitoring device and a sign that says "Air Quality Monitoring". Feel free to go talk to them but rest assured that this is part of the program to make sure that when you are in your classrooms that you are alert and focused and not likely to suffer the accute affects of high levels of CO2.

And PS, the award that we won was the 2005 CAUBO Award for Quality and Excellence.
- jon

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