Just Breathing Office Air Makes You Dumber, Says Study

Yeah, that air you're breathing at the office? It's likely diminishing your brain power by more than half unless it's kept environmentally clean, according to a new study.

Researchers came to this conclusion by placing 24 professionals — including engineers, designers and architects — in a specialized office for six full days, Ars Technica reports. Really a lab at Syracuse University, the office gave researchers the tools to alter levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) on a daily basis. Participants then took a cognition test each afternoon that rated nine kinds of mental functioning, including information usage, strategy and crisis response.

"The results are striking," says lead researcher Joseph Allen.

Participants' scores rose an average of 61 percent on so-called "green" days (when VOCs were lower) and 101 percent on "green+" days (which had low VOCs and "a high outdoor air ventilation rate," the study says). Allen says ventilation, CO2 and VOCs were all capable of affecting the scores.

The CO2 findings are "particularly important," an analyst explains. "For decades, nearly everyone had thought that carbon dioxide at the concentrations encountered in buildings had no effects on people."

Sadly, typical buildings are designed to trap conditioned air in order to save energy — which raises VOC and CO2 levels. That's because CO2 and VOCs come from everyday things like air fresheners, furniture, flooring, leaky furnaces and paint, Popular Science reports.

(In related news, bad air quality might spoil your workout, too.)