Association of ventilation rates and carbon dioxide concentrations with health and other responses in commercial and institutional buildings

Posted by Phil Hollins on Aug 2, 2016

Authors: Seppänen, O.A., Fisk, W.J. and Mendell, M.J.

Year of publication: 1999

Publication: Indoor air, 9(4), pp.226-252.

Keywords: sick-building syndrome (SBS), CO2, respiratory illness, indoor air quality,

Link to publication

This comprehensive paper reviews the literature relating to the association between ventilation rates found in commercial buildings, CO2 concentrations and human health responses (i.e. respiratory illnesses, sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms and perceived poor air quality).

In total, twenty studies with 30,000 subjects investigated the association of ventilation rates with human responses and 21 studies, with over 30,000 subjects, investigated the association of carbon dioxide concentration with these responses. The aim was to synthesize the research literature in order to provide a better scientific basis for establishing health-related ventilation standards.

The findings suggest, that:

  • Ventilation rates below 10 Ls-1 per person were associated with a significant worsening of health or perceived air quality
  • Ventilation rates up ~ 20 Ls-1 per person were associated with a significant decrease in the prevalence of SBS symptoms and improvement in perceived air quality
  • In comparing low to high ventilation rates - relative risks of 1.5 - 2 for respiratory illnesses and 1.1 - 6 for SBS symptoms were noted

And for carbon dioxide concentrations, it was determined that:

  • The risk of SBS symptoms decreased significantly with CO2 concentrations below 800 ppm

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