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Why do carbon dioxide levels rise in crowded rooms

Why do carbon dioxide levels rise in crowded rooms?

We attend a lot of exhibitions at Analox, over a wide range of industrial sectors. When we do, we like to monitor our carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors with interest.

Why? To see carbon dioxide levels rise over the course of the day.

We were at the NRA Show in Chicago in May, the largest gathering of restaurant and foodservice professionals in the world, with over 45,000 people attending the show over the space of three days.

Our Ax60 CO2 detector measured gas levels at 0.05% (500ppm) at the start of the day. By the afternoon gas levels had doubled to 0.1% (1150ppm).

Initial CO2 levels at the NRA show   Ax60 monitor

(L) Our Ax60 carbon dioxide monitor showed levels of 500ppm at the start of the day – by the afternoon (R) this had increased to 1150ppm

So – why does this happen?

Humans breathe in oxygen which is used for cell respiration. Carbon dioxide is created as a byproduct of this process and we breathe this out. On an average day we breathe out about 2.3 pounds of CO2 (more if we engage in a high level of physical activity).

In an enclosed space (like an exhibition hall) with a lot of people, this means that over the course of the day, carbon dioxide levels will increase slightly.

Do these high levels of carbon dioxide have a negative health effect?

The rise in carbon dioxide in exhibition halls will not put you in danger. The American Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set an exposure limit of 0.5% (5,000ppm) over an eight-hour period. When we were at the NRA show, the highest carbon dioxide level we registered was still just over a fifth of the exposure limit.

Experience indicates that people in rooms with elevated levels of carbon dioxide do report tiredness and lethargy. SUNY Upstate Medical University and the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory conducted an interesting experiment in 2012 where they put four participants in a small room and gradually increased the levels of CO2. They found that decision making and strategic thinking levels decreased significantly as carbon dioxide levels increased – up to 94% at 0.25% (2500ppm). However, the study was conducted on a small sample size and needs to be tested on a larger scale before any strong conclusions are made.

If you want to keep CO2 levels low in busy spaces, the best thing to do is to keep the room ventilated in order to dilute levels of CO2. It is also a good idea to have some plants in the room – as they use carbon dioxide to produce chemical energy, creating oxygen as a byproduct.

Exhibitions can be long and stressful – whether you are an exhibitor or a visitor. If you do get a ‘fuzzy head’ during the course of the day, the best thing to do is to get some fresh air.

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Author: Kate Ingham, Digital Marketing Executive

Founded in 1981, Analox Sensor Technology provides niche and custom gas detection solutions to industries including beverage and fast food, commercial diving and laboratories. Analox has over 325 years of collective, specialist electronics and software engineering expertise, as well as a worldwide distributor network. Contact us to see how we can provide expert gas monitoring solutions and help you achieve your goals.

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