International ME/CFS and FM Awareness Day Is On May 12, 2018
Thomas Hennessy, Jr., selected May 12th to be our international awareness day back in 1992. He knew that May 12th had also been the birthday of Florence Nightingale. She was the English army nurse who helped to found the Red Cross as well as the first school of nursing in the world.
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Carbon dioxide levels inside and fatigue. (An explanation for why your house might make you sick?)

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Murph, Sep 8, 2018.

  1. Murph

    Murph :)

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    From: http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/08/23/carbon-dioxide-an-open-door-policy/

    Carbon Dioxide: An Open Door Policy
    Posted on August 23, 2018 by Scott Alexander

    Last month I moved into a small cottage behind a big group house. The cottage is lovely. The big group house is also lovely, but the people in it started suffering mysterious minor ailments. Headaches, fatigue, poor sleep – all the things that will make your local family doctor say “Take two placebo and call me in the morning”. Using my years of medical training and expertise, I was able to…remain completely unaware of the problem while my housemates solved it themselves.

    There’s been a flare-up of research interest in indoor carbon dioxide levels, precipitated by a Berkeley study (paper, popular article) finding that increasing CO2 concentration from the level of a well-ventilated building to the level of a poorly-ventilated building had profound effects on cognitive ability, cutting various test scores by as much as 50%. This was so dramatic as to be implausible, but seems to match the result of previous Hungarian studies and a later Harvard study on the same subject. The Harvard team later replicated their result with real workers in real offices and found that, controlling for other factors, workers in the best-ventilated offices scored about 25% better on cognitive tests than in the worst-ventilated ones. NASA got really interested in this research because spaceships require a lot of intellectual work and don’t have a lot of open windows. They’re still running tests but they say that “preliminary results suggest differences” between better- and worse- ventilated environments.

    On the other hand, a 2017 study failed to find the effect, possibly because their cognitive tests were easier. And bloggers have pointed out that submarines have more CO2 than the worst terrestrial buildings, but don’t have any problems overt enough for the Navy to notice or worry. So it’s a crapshoot of contradictory results and considerations, just like everything else.

    Aware of this research, my housemates tested their air quality and got levels between 1000 and 3000 ppm, around the level of the worst high-CO2 conditions in the studies. They started leaving their windows open and buying industrial quantities of succulent plants, and the problems mostly disappeared. Since then they’ve spread the word to other people we know afflicted with mysterious fatigue, some of whom have also noticed positive results.

    When I heard about this, my first question was: didn’t any of these people notice they only felt bad at home? Shouldn’t it have been a big red flag when they went to the office, or went for a walk, and all their problems disappeared? This can’t be too big a deal, or else “I feel bad in my house, but fine everywhere else” would be a more common complaint.

    My housemate Kelsey referred me to the work on CO2 and sleep. Right now this is just a few papers by a guy named Strøm-Tejsen, but the implications are pretty important. He notes that however bad your carbon dioxide levels are during the day they’re probably much worse at night, when you shut yourself up in a small room, close all the doors and windows, and just breathe for like eight hours straight. Normal outdoor air is about 400 ppm CO2 (more by the time you read this; thanks, fossil fuel industry!) A well-ventilated building during the daytime is about 700 ppm, and a poorly ventilated building during the daytime about 1400 ppm. But the average bedroom at night can be 2000 ppm or more. Friend-Of-The-Blog Gwern got a CO2 monitor to test these findings, and confirmed that while his daytime CO2 was around 500 ppm, nighttime CO2 in his bedroom could get as high as 3000 ppm. MIT’s Joel Jean discussed trying the same in this Medium post, with similar results:

    read more here: http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/08/23/carbon-dioxide-an-open-door-policy/
     
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  2. Murph

    Murph :)

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  3. ChrisD

    ChrisD Senior Member

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    This is really interesting, my whole life my family have lived in one home that I have come and gone from (am back here now) and I have always found that I feel lethargic and tired inside except when we have all the doors and windows open in the summer. It's not just me either, I notice it in my family members. But we have never been able to work out what it is, we have a Carbon Monoxide tester which is fine. The air quality certainly exacerbates my ME.
     
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  4. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    That's interesting, I sleep with the bedroom door closed, because I get up late which means I would be disturbed by others in the house if I did not close the door.

    But whether it was really CO2 that was the issue (or the only issue) in the above story seems open to question. If there are ill effects associated with a building, then introducing more ventilation is going be generally helpful whatever airborne toxins are present.

    In the 1970s there was a spate of "sick building syndrome" occurring in newly built office buildings, which would produce vague minor ailments and malaise. Lack of ventilation may have been a factor in sick building syndrome, and high CO2 also; but other theories talk about new building materials off-gasing irritant chemicals, such as formaldehyde from chipboard (particleboard).

    There could have been a mold issue also involved the above story, which would again improve with better ventilation, because ventilation would reduce mycotoxin levels in the indoor air. And carbon monoxide (CO) from faulty gas heating system installations can very occassionally be an issue.

    And as someone who suffered major symptoms (not just minor ailments) for around 12 months after (unbeknown to me) a sizable amount of organophosphate pesticide was split in my home and not properly cleared up, it's also possible that some previous chemical inside the house spillage might be involved. I've read that houses which have been used as meth labs (street drug manufacture) can produce ill health effects for later occupants due to the chemicals used.



    Though nevertheless it is interesting that CO2 levels can build up in a close bedroom during sleep; it might be worth experimenting with opening bedroom windows slightly, to see if that improves sleep.

    That being said, CO2 is also potent cerebral vasodilator (increases blood flow to the brain), and since brain blood flow is known to be low in ME/CFS. And CO2 helps oxygenate tissues (Bohr effect). So it's possible that higher CO2 levels might actually be beneficial.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
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  5. RobR

    RobR

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    We purchased a professional used air quality meter earlier in the year after reading about Sick Building Syndrome.
    The manual stated any CO2 reading under 1000 is OK. Our bedroom reading was 800 while the rest of the house was in the mid to low 500's. We sleep with the window open otherwise we'd choke because the house feels dry.

    Can I also mention our 30 year old home is built on a brownfield site. The amount of plastics that have been dug up beggars belief. Some decaying, some not. As you all may know these can give off toxic fumes. I suggest people find out what really is buried below or near their homes.
     
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  6. Wishful

    Wishful Senior Member

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    I sleep in a small bedroom (8' x 8') which is fairly well-sealed and haven't noticed any significant difference between winter (sealed up tight) and summer (wide open). Likewise I don't notice a difference in cognitive ability between days when I stay mostly sealed in my bedroom and days when I go for long walks.

    My guess is that this is just another case where properly-done follow-up studies will show no significant effects for normal circumstances. My other guess is that some groups will do some biased studies to cause a huge surge in marketing of CO2 monitors, CO2 mitigation kits, and whatever else they can sell.
     
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  7. RobR

    RobR

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    Guessing isn't researching. I worked in the construction industry for over 20 years and you'd be surprised what's in the building materials, not to mention the hazardous chemicals used in construction. I also suggest you look up the meaning of 'Brownfield', you'll be shocked at the land used to build some homes and offices on.

    Then you have plastics in your home, car and clothing. Of course we are all told these are safe. then somewhere down the line we will probably find out they aren't.

    We are surrounded by pollution in one form or another.

    Edit:

    I should add people would assume Brownfield sites would have been cleared of all former debris. The truth is they are not, and a lot of it will be under your feet.

    I once contracted for a large global company at their head office. I asked why there was a large patch of grass with a sign in the middle just a stones throw from the building we were in. A gentleman explained the building was constructed on a former chemical factory and that part of the land I was looking at was too contaminated to build on. Nice....
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
  8. Wishful

    Wishful Senior Member

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    @RobR, the thread is specifically about CO2 levels, although one of the papers mentioned also studied the effects of VOCs. My guess is based on other 'dramatic discoveries' that have been reported, built up into health fads, and then faded away. I'll wait for more followup studies before worrying about my CO2 levels.
     
  9. RobR

    RobR

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    SBS seems to be geared towards CO2 when
    I know, and I was trying really hard not to deviate from the CO2 part.
    Just couldn't help pointing out there are other factors.

    The main reason I wrote about our CO2 monitor is because we live near a petrol filling station, an extremely busy main road, and an ever expanding town. Curiosity got the better of me because I'd like to know what I'm breathing in.

    PS: I take any marketing fad with a pinch of salt.
     
  10. Wishful

    Wishful Senior Member

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    Some people are unusually sensitive to chemicals. I did check (by avoidance) to make sure that I wasn't reacting to a foam mattress or other things in my bedroom. Since each of us could be more (or less) sensitive that normal, I think it's better to test for effects (by temporarily changing our environment) than to measure the environment and compare it to what is considered safe for normal people. Observation rather than theory.
     
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  11. lafarfelue

    lafarfelue Senior Member

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    A factor to be aware of with this kind of thing is that self-assessment of cognitive ability is generally unreliable.

    A person may feel that they're functioning within their normal range, when in fact if measured/assessed by an external mechanism/individual, the amount of energy going into cognitive tasks, the number of errors they make, how precise their motor skills are not at the level that the individual themselves think they're at.
     
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  12. Wishful

    Wishful Senior Member

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    Very true. How can we accurately self-assess when we're too brainfogged to realize how bad our judgement is? I try to err on the side of underestimating my abilities, especially for the question: 'Is it safe for me to drive today?'
     
  13. RobR

    RobR

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    I also suffer from Chronic Sinusitis and had leaf green coloured gunge coming from my nose along with daily sinus pain. Earlier this year I went to visit relatives in WA.
    Guess what? The green gunge and pain have gone after suffering from a cold for a week while there but the Sinusitis remains. The gunge continues but has gone from green to a greyish colour. I now know my theory about the local pollution was correct. Something a GP put his finger on before I made the trip.
     

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