Personal CO2 cloud: laboratory measurements of metabolic CO2 inhalation zone concentration and dispersion in a typical office desk setting

Abstract

Inhalation exposure to pure and metabolic elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has been associated with impaired work performance, lower perceived air quality, and increased health symptoms. In this study, the concentration of metabolic CO2 was continuously measured in the inhalation zone of 41 subjects performing simulated office work. The measurements took place in an environmental chamber with well-controlled mechanical ventilation arranged as an office environment. The results showed the existence of a personal CO2 cloud in the inhalation zone of all test subjects, characterized by the excess of metabolic CO2 beyond the room background levels. For seated occupants, the median CO2 inhalation zone concentration levels were between 200 and 500 ppm above the background, and the third quartile up to 800 ppm above the background. Each study subject had distinct magnitude of the personal CO2 cloud owing to differences in metabolic CO2 generation, posture, nose geometry, and breathing pattern. A small desktop oscillating fan proved to be suitable for dispersing much of the personal CO2 cloud, thus reducing the inhalation zone concentration to background level. The results suggest that background measurements cannot capture the significant personal CO2 cloud effect in human microclimate.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) under interagency agreement no. GX0012829 with the U.S. Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The authors wish to acknowledge the following members of GSA’s Wellbuilt for Wellbeing Group is a multidisciplinary research project team (GSA Contract # GS-00-H-14-AA-C-0094) consisting of the following members: Kevin Kampschroer, Judith Heerwagen and Brian Gilligan of GSA. Esther Sternberg, Perry Skeath, Casey Lindberg, and Matthias Mehlof the University of Arizona Institute on Place and Wellbeing. Bijan Najafi, Javad Razjouyan, Hyoki Lee, and Hung Nguyen of the Baylor College of Medicine Interdisciplinary Consortium on Advanced Motion Performance (iCAMP). Sudha Ram, Faiz Curim and Karthik Srinivasian of the University of Arizona INSITE Center for Business Intelligence and Analytics. Kelly Canada of LMI Inc. Priya Saha, Rebecca Goldfinger-Fein, Alicia Darbishire, and Mills Wallace of the Federal Occupantional Health Service. Davida Herzl, Reuben Herzl, Melissa Lunden, Nicole Goebel, and Scott Andrews of Aclima Inc.

This research was also partially supported by the Republic of Singapore’s National Research Foundation through a grant to the Berkeley Education Alliance for Research in Singapore (BEARS) for the Singapore-Berkeley Building Efficiency and Sustainability in the Tropics (SinBerBEST) Program.

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Correspondence to Jovan Pantelic.

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Pantelic, J., Liu, S., Pistore, L. et al. Personal CO2 cloud: laboratory measurements of metabolic CO2 inhalation zone concentration and dispersion in a typical office desk setting. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 30, 328–337 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-019-0179-5

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