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

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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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