Foggy Thinking

Feeling a little fuzzy today?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Asbestos in the walls! Aerosol particles in the air! Pollution is EVERYWHERE! Studies have shown that continual exposure to OUTDOOR air pollution can cause loss of brain function. Horrors! Should we play it safe and just…stay indoors?

Jose Guillermo Cedeño Laurent from Harvard University and his international team wondered. 

They used real-time monitors to track aerosol particle levels near people’s workstations for one year. About three hundred office workers from six countries participated. When the indoor air pollution was either low or high these workers were prompted to take a test. This test measured their ability to selectively focus and respond.  

Results? When indoor air pollution was high, the subjects took almost TEN PERCENT longer to respond. The researchers say that this suggests better ventilation may improve focus and productivity.

So next time you’re feeling off your game, get a breather! Or maybe a second cup of coffee? With donuts…? 

Reference: Cedeño Laurent, J. G., MacNaughton, P., Jones, E., Young, A. S., Bliss, M., Flanigan, S., Vallarino, J., Chen, L. J., Cao, X., & Allen, J. G. (2021). Associations between acute exposures to PM2.5 and carbon dioxide indoors and cognitive function in office workers: a multicountry longitudinal prospective observational study. Environmental Research Letters, 16(9), 094047.