Claim: CO2 makes you stupid? Ask a submariner that question

From Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, something that might finally explain Al Gore’s behavior – too much time spent indoors and in auditoriums giving pitches about the dangers of CO2. One wonders though what the Navy submarine service has to say about this new research:

We try to keep CO2 levels in our U.S. Navy submarines no higher than 8,000 parts per million, about 20 time current atmospheric levels. Few adverse effects are observed at even higher levels. – Senate testimony of Dr. William Happer, here

This is backed up by the publication from the National Academies of Science Emergency and Continuous Exposure Guidance Levels for Selected Submarine Contaminants
which documents effects of CO2 at much much higher levels than the medical study, and shows regular safe exposure at these levels…

Data collected on nine nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines indicate an average CO2 concentration of 3,500 ppm with a range of 0-10,600 ppm, and data collected on 10 nuclear-powered attack submarines indicate an average CO2 concentration of 4,100 ppm with a range of 300-11,300 ppm (Hagar 2003). – page 46

…but shows no concern at the values of 600-2500 ppm of this medical study from LBNL. I figure if the Navy thinks it is safe for men who have their finger on the nuclear weapons keys, then that is good enough for me.

Elevated Indoor Carbon Dioxide Impairs Decision-Making Performance

Berkeley Lab scientists surprised to find significant adverse effects of CO2 on human decision-making performance.

Overturning decades of conventional wisdom, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have found that moderately high indoor concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) can significantly impair people’s decision-making performance. The results were unexpected and may have particular implications for schools and other spaces with high occupant density.

“In our field we have always had a dogma that CO2 itself, at the levels we find in buildings, is just not important and doesn’t have any direct impacts on people,” said Berkeley Lab scientist William Fisk, a co-author of the study, which was published in Environmental Health Perspectives online last month. “So these results, which were quite unambiguous, were surprising.” The study was conducted with researchers from State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University.

On nine scales of decision-making performance, test subjects showed significant reductions on six of the scales at CO2 levels of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) and large reductions on seven of the scales at 2,500 ppm. The most dramatic declines in performance, in which subjects were rated as “dysfunctional,” were for taking initiative and thinking strategically. “Previous studies have looked at 10,000 ppm, 20,000 ppm; that’s the level at which scientists thought effects started,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Mark Mendell, also a co-author of the study. “That’s why these findings are so startling.”

(caption)

Berkeley Lab researchers found that even moderately elevated levels of indoor carbon dioxide resulted in lower scores on six of nine scales of human decision-making performance.

While the results need to be replicated in a larger study, they point to possible economic consequences of pursuing energy efficient buildings without regard to occupants. “As there’s a drive for increasing energy efficiency, there’s a push for making buildings tighter and less expensive to run,” said Mendell. “There’s some risk that, in that process, adverse effects on occupants will be ignored. One way to make sure occupants get the attention they deserve is to point out adverse economic impacts of poor indoor air quality. If people can’t think or perform as well, that could obviously have adverse economic impacts.”

The primary source of indoor CO2 is humans. While typical outdoor concentrations are around 380 ppm, indoor concentrations can go up to several thousand ppm. Higher indoor CO2 concentrations relative to outdoors are due to low rates of ventilation, which are often driven by the need to reduce energy consumption. In the real world, CO2 concentrations in office buildings normally don’t exceed 1,000 ppm, except in meeting rooms, when groups of people gather for extended periods of time.

In classrooms, concentrations frequently exceed 1,000 ppm and occasionally exceed 3,000 ppm. CO2 at these levels has been assumed to indicate poor ventilation, with increased exposure to other indoor pollutants of potential concern, but the CO2 itself at these levels has not been a source of concern. Federal guidelines set a maximum occupational exposure limit at 5,000 ppm as a time-weighted average for an eight-hour workday.

Fisk decided to test the conventional wisdom on indoor CO2 after coming across two small Hungarian studies reporting that exposures between 2,000 and 5,000 ppm may have adverse impacts on some human activities.

Mendell-Fisk

Berkeley Lab scientists Mark Mendell (left) and William Fisk

Fisk, Mendell, and their colleagues, including Usha Satish at SUNY Upstate Medical University, assessed CO2 exposure at three concentrations: 600, 1,000 and 2,500 ppm. They recruited 24 participants, mostly college students, who were studied in groups of four in a small office-like chamber for 2.5 hours for each of the three conditions. Ultrapure CO2 was injected into the air supply and mixing was ensured, while all other factors, such as temperature, humidity, and ventilation rate, were kept constant. The sessions for each person took place on a single day, with one-hour breaks between sessions.

Although the sample size was small, the results were unmistakable. “The stronger the effect you have, the fewer subjects you need to see it,” Fisk said. “Our effect was so big, even with a small number of people, it was a very clear effect.”

Another novel aspect of this study was the test used to assess decision-making performance, the Strategic Management Simulation (SMS) test, developed by SUNY. In most studies of how indoor air quality affects people, test subjects are given simple tasks to perform, such as adding a column of numbers or proofreading text. “It’s hard to know how those indicators translate in the real world,” said Fisk. “The SMS measures a higher level of cognitive performance, so I wanted to get that into our field of research.”

Strategy and Initiative

Strategic thinking and taking initiative showed the most dramatic declines in performance at 2,500 ppm carbon dioxide concentrations.

The SMS has been used most commonly to assess effects on cognitive function, such as by drugs, pharmaceuticals or brain injury, and as a training tool for executives. The test gives scenarios—for example, you’re the manager of an organization when a crisis hits, what do you do?—and scores participants in nine areas. “It looks at a number of dimensions, such as how proactive you are, how focused you are, or how you search for and use information,” said Fisk. “The test has been validated through other means, and they’ve shown that for executives it is predictive of future income and job level.”

Data from elementary school classrooms has found CO2 concentrations frequently near or above the levels in the Berkeley Lab study. Although their study tested only decision making and not learning, Fisk and Mendell say it is possible that students could be disadvantaged in poorly ventilated classrooms, or in rooms in which a large number of people are gathered to take a test. “We cannot rule out impacts on learning,” their report says.

The next step for the Berkeley Lab researchers is to reproduce and expand upon their findings. “Our first goal is to replicate this study because it’s so important and would have such large implications,” said Fisk. “We need a larger sample and additional tests of human work performance. We also want to include an expert who can assess what’s going on physiologically.”

Until then, they say it’s too early to make any recommendations for office workers or building managers. “Assuming it’s replicated, it has implications for the standards we set for minimum ventilation rates for buildings,” Fisk said. “People who are employers who want to get the most of their workforce would want to pay attention to this.”

Funding for this study was provided by SUNY and the state of New York.

#  #  #

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

============================================================

Given what I’ve learned about the Navy exposure, I think this is just another scare tactic to make CO2 look like an invisible boogeyman.

133 thoughts on “Claim: CO2 makes you stupid? Ask a submariner that question

  1. Oh, come on! If this isn’t a ‘cry for funds’ I don’t know what is.

    “While the results need to be replicated in a larger study, they point to possible economic consequences of pursuing energy efficient buildings without regard to occupants.”

  2. I and my wife sleep in a room which is around 12ft x 12ft x 8ft. We had new double-glazing fitted, which is pretty airtight. The door fits well. And we find that if we go to sleep without leaving a window ajar then we end up with a muggy head in the morning.

    No doubt someone can estimate what PPM we are getting….

  3. What struck me most about health effects from my service in submarines were the white stains on the stainless steel urinals. A patrol doc once told me this was down to high CO2 levels causing slightly high acidic blood levels dissolving calcium from our skeletons.

  4. I don’t see anything wrong with the experiment’s methodology. Sounds straightforward and easily replicated.

    The interpretation of the results makes absolutely no mention of climate. In fact, it cautions against energy-saving measures that reduce ventilation.

    What’s the problem?

    REPLY:
    Well if the Navy (which has studied this at length for obvious safety reasons) sees no problem, why all of the sudden do these researchers? Either our nuclear capability is in the hands of CO2 drunken sailors (in which case we have a BIG problem) or there’s something else going on. – Anthony

  5. On the positive side of things, the highest levels of CO2 seem, according to this study at least, to reduce the tendency of people to use “initiative” — the sort of thing that might lead to crews commandeering a sub and firing missiles illegally.

    These sorts of sealed chamber “submarine-esque” studies are questionable at best. They did one a while ago to justify smoking bans in subs by pointing out that nonsmoking crew members in smoking subs had their blood cotinine levels raised by 1 nanogram per milliliter after ten days of being trapped underwater without ANY fresh air while roughly 3,000 cigarettes were smoked by smoking crew members. The Antismokers pointed out that this was a devastating 50 to 100% increase over the pre-experiment norms in the nonsmokers and demanded the Navy ban submarine smoking. What they NEGLECTED to mention was that the normal level for the crew members who smoked was literally THREE THOUSAND TIMES as high: 3,000 ng/ml. The “one nanogram” increase in the nonsmokers was totally meaningless, despite being used to terrify people and change an entire branch of US military policy.

    So, as you can see, once you look behind the reports on the studies to the actual facts you’ll often find that the advocacy groups have twisted the science beyond all recognition. In this case I’ll bet that if you dig a bit you’ll find some links to your Warmer folks mixed in: gotta get people frightened of CO2 if you’re going to drive ahead with the program, eh?

    – MJM

  6. As many who’ve paid attention to the debates surrounding atmospheric CO2, I’d have to agree that CO2 apparently makes some people stupid.

  7. The breath you exhale is typically 4% or 40,000 ppm carbon dioxide. How can air inhaled with CO2 contents of 1000 ppm or even 2400 ppm possibly have the adverse effects being attributed here. Like AGW, these absurd conclusions may simply be what happens when the liberal mind attempts to do science.

  8. I have heard a crowded auditorium can have co2 levels of 100,000 ppm. No wonder in crowded situations Al gore goes crazy and blames all the worlds problems on co2.

  9. From the graphic is appears that they created the Carbon Dioxide by buring a organic compound containing THC. Notice the improved ability to focus (on perhaps a loose thread or an anthill) when inflicd with levels that are high’er. The other data seems to fit.

    It is Berkeley after all.

    [The next step for the Berkeley Lab researchers is to reproduce and expand upon their findings. “Our first goal is to replicate this study because it’s so important and would have such large implications,”]

    I bet all the participants are equally eager.
    Occupy a study!

    Climate Science is going to pot.

  10. “…researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have found that moderately high indoor concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) can significantly impair people’s decision-making performance.”

    Depending on what you smoked to produce the CO2.

  11. Wow, after 4 deployments I now know what to blame for all my lame decisions!! (Can’t wait to tell my wife – she’s gonna love this excuse!!)

  12. They did the “study” in one day, which means the order they conducted the sessions could have a big effect on the outcome. What they may have been measuring is how much better people think in the morning before they become bored, weary, or hungry. If they conducted the last session right after lunch when the blood rushes to the digestive track and people get the urge to nap, it would likely have had a negative effect on the results. They need to conduct the experiment again in a different order and see if the results are the same. I suspect they won’t be.

  13. I worked on the life support systems for the International Space Station several years ago. At the time, we were trying to keep it below 5,000 ppm (0.5%). I haven’t followed that program through operations, but it’s probably within a factor of two of that number.

    NASA SP-3006 is the Bioastronautics Data Book, and it includes guidelines for atmospheric control. In the section for designing for CO2 concentration on page 49 (second edition), there’s a relevant chart. For a 40 day exposure, there is no effect up to 0.5% and “minor perceptive changes” at up to 3% (30,000 ppm). Of course, we tried to get well below these numbers.

  14. They did all three tests in the same day for each participant. I’m sure that I would be pooped by the third one. Is it at all possible that doing all the tests in one day has contributed to the results?

  15. REPLY: Well if the Navy (which has studied this at length for obvious safety reasons) sees no problem, why all of the sudden do these researchers? Either our nuclear capability is in the hands of CO2 drunken sailors (in which case we have a BIG problem) or there’s something else going on. – Anthony

    As I understand it, this study looked at high order cognitive skills. On the face of it, one might argue that a distinction exists between such meta-skills and the highly trained, order driven skill set of the military. And assuming strategic descisions are independently formulated and made while submerged,the putative cognitive damping effect of CO2 is common to all submarines.

    Who knows, may be low p[CO2] in submarines could be as limes once were to the British Navy..sarc..

  16. Dodgy Geezer–

    Picking up your challenge, i\If you and your wife breathe out about 12 m3/day, together you are putting about about 1 m3 per hour for the 8 hours in your bedroom, which has a volume of let’s say about 30 m3. Taking another commentator’s value of 4% CO2 in exhaled breath, you are putting out 0.04 m3 of CO2 per hour. If the room were really tight, it might have an air exchange rate of 0.1 room volume/h. Assuming that after 8 hours you are near equilibrium value, then the CO2 level will be about 0.04/(0.1*30) = about 13,000 ppm, or near-submarine quality. More likely your air exchange rate is 0.3 which would bring it down to about 4,000 ppm. Yes. headaches are seen in indoor air quality studies at levels > 1000 ppm. I conclude you made the right choice in cracking the window at night.

  17. Mannian statistics at work – “The stronger the effect you have, the fewer subjects you need to see it”. Wow.

  18. Russ R.

    I agree, the experiment was well-performed and has nothing to do with climate. Note that the experimenters’ LOWEST level of CO2 was 600 ppm, slightly beyond the feared doubling of CO2 due to arrive late this century I think, or maybe early the next. The good news seems to be that people did just fine on these tests at 600 ppm, so outdoor CO2 cannot be claimed by anyone to be directly injurious to health for another century at least.

  19. Stupid is a permanent condition. There is no arguing with it either.
    The AGW agenda is brought forward by political scientists for the purpose of influencing people who are unable or unwilling to challenge the disinformation.
    I applaud the tone we should laugh and move on. There are a huge number of things to learn and science needs to advance quickly before we all freeze to death under a mile of continental ice.

  20. Before i reduced my excess library, i had a seventies issue of the “Code of Federal Regulations” which was 500 pages of allowable exposures to absolutely EVERYTHING. We were designing a project with an outside air intake close to a elevated parking garage exit and there was a possible CO and CO2 exposure. We installed monitors with shut-off controls and seldom exceeded the ambient levels by even a few PPM. The CFR for CO2 PROLONGED EXPOSURE WAS 50,000 PPM. This molecule is so safe it is used as the fire suppression system gas for the space shuttle and the space station. Prior to accepting this over Halon and other suppression gases, CO2 was tested at prolonged exposure 80,000 PPM with no measurable side effects. Sleepiness was a noticed side effect at 100,000 PPM. Since we exhale 40,000 PPM with every breath, confined spaces routinely reach 3,000 PPM. But it would be nice of the WARMONGERS would stop exhaling.

  21. “Exposure order was balanced across the groups.” In other words, they did the levels in different orders, which is what I would expect for reasonable experimental design. I still suspect the results are due to small sample size.

    Louis says:

    October 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    They did the “study” in one day, which means the order they conducted the sessions could have a big effect on the outcome. What they may have been measuring is how much better people think in the morning before they become bored, weary, or hungry. If they conducted the last session right after lunch when the blood rushes to the digestive track and people get the urge to nap, it would likely have had a negative effect on the results. They need to conduct the experiment again in a different order and see if the results are the same. I suspect they won’t be.
    Jarryd Beck says:

    October 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    They did all three tests in the same day for each participant. I’m sure that I would be pooped by the third one. Is it at all possible that doing all the tests in one day has contributed to the results?

  22. I wondered about the O2 as well, also what is the ambient air pressure on subs? that might make the effects of gasses different. `Anyway I get drowsey if the O2 drops but a breath of pure O2 sorts it.

  23. By the way, Fisk and Mendell have both, along with other researchers such as David Wyon, studied the effect of poor indoor air quality on productivity, finding that indeed productivity drops as IAQ worsens. In fact, the main dollar cost of poor IAQ turns out to be this loss of productivity, not health problems per se. In a sick building study at EPA, putting a cost on headaches together with a survey finding on the number of headaches per day, resulted in headaches being identified as the most costly of the various symptoms reported.

  24. “Although the sample size was small, the results were unmistakable. “The stronger the effect you have, the fewer subjects you need to see it,” Fisk said. “Our effect was so big, even with a small number of people, it was a very clear effect.” ”
    In fact, it is as clear as mud!

  25. A more pressing problem of tight buildings is the spread of airborne disease. Same for apartments vs. single family homes.

    Thanks
    JK

  26. Louis says:
    October 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    You got it, Lou! As a scientist who designed many animal and human trials, I found that the temporal aspects, especially circadian rhythms and order of measurements, are key to having valid control groups.

    (I did not read the paper—if anyone has, please put my following qualified remarks to falsification, if possible)

    For example, the test has to be randomized for all variables. If they started out with normal CO2, did they increase that going forward only? Not in reverse? (by starting high and going lower, as well, or, best—inserting randomized levels at randomly generated hourly intervals)—that takes thinking and effort. Nice job if they did this.

    Being cooped up in a room even at constant atmosphere would result in boredom and lack of initiative, so randomizing variables is an absolute requirement. Also, higher CO2 makes higher humidity less comfortable. [example: plants are more drought tolerant in increasing CO2 concentrations]

    n=24? Really. In groups of four? Is that so. What was the dynamic of the 4-group? Were they broken up and refitted into random groups? What is the variance? Among individuals, among groups? Does variance increase or decrease with test levels per individual and group?

    There is a paucity of barely passable science being conducted in Universities these days, in my opinion. (This conjecture is not based upon any controlled experiment, of course!) I don’t even think the Scientific Method is taught accurately at any scholastic level very much. Look at papers published in Science, Nature, Sci Am, etc. and form your own opinion…

  27. They recruited 24 participants, mostly college students [from Berkeley one assumes – AW], who were studied in groups of four in a small office-like chamber for 2.5 hours for each of the three conditions.

    The crew of a ballistic missle sub is around 160; an attack sub around 130. They both can stay submerged for months. I think the study authors’ claim:

    Although the sample size was small, the results were unmistakable. “The stronger the effect you have, the fewer subjects you need to see it,” Fisk said. “Our effect was so big, even with a small number of people, it was a very clear effect.”

    is definitely premature. On a submarine there is no smoking, no alcohol and no other illicit drugs. The crew is mostly young (but no younger than 20) and exclusively male. The submarine environment is one they train for. A submarine crew is definitely not representative of the population as a whole, and I suspect the study group isn’t either.

    One obvious question given the disparity of this study’s results and the experience of the Navy is whether people adapt to higher CO2 levels over time, which cannot be answered by a study spanning just a single day for each subject.

    Has anyone measured the CO2 levels in the White House situation room (especially if the President is in there smoking)? Or how about the newsrooms where major media writers and editors churn out copy telling us that so many things are “settled science”? Or how about the offices where the study authors analyzed the data and wrote their conclusions? Or the rooms where the grant committees meet to pass on research funding proposals?

    Suddenly there may be a scientific explanation for all those questionable decisions.

  28. The human body adjusts to high ambient CO2 levels (i.e. partial pressure) by excreting more acid in the urine. This is akin to respiratory acidosis with metabolic compensation, where the body tries to keep blood pH at 7.40.
    A better medical study would distinguish acute exposure from chronic exposure.

  29. Before CAGW, dodgy studies sank into the mud. Larger studies would be used to refute the results, or the study would be seen to be case-specific. Now any study is global.

    Regional warming becomes global warming if the local regions are warmed enough. This is, after all, how Mann et al got ride of the MWP: they said it was local! So a small study becomes a global study … if there is only a couple of studies.

    They might be right about the reduced cognitive functioning, however the US Navy currently thinks about acceptable levels of CO2. It would be nice to think the nuclear push button wasn’t on the hand of someone unnecessarily stressed by a buidup of CO2. There is enough stress to disturb cognitive thinking in being put in a situation in which one might HAVE to push the nuclear button.

  30. “Fisk, Mendell, and their colleagues, including Usha Satish at SUNY Upstate Medical University, assessed CO2 exposure at three concentrations: 600, 1,000 and 2,500 ppm. They recruited 24 participants, mostly college students, who were studied in groups of four in a small office-like chamber for 2.5 hours for each of the three conditions. Ultrapure CO2 was injected into the air supply and mixing was ensured, while all other factors, such as temperature, humidity, and ventilation rate, were kept constant. The sessions for each person took place on a single day, with one-hour breaks between sessions.

    Although the sample size was small, the results were unmistakable. “The stronger the effect you have, the fewer subjects you need to see it,” Fisk said. “Our effect was so big, even with a small number of people, it was a very clear effect.””
    ********************************************************************************************************
    They need to do the tests the opposite way around. Do the morning test with elevated CO2 and the evening tests with the 600ppm and look at the results. My bet is that they will give the same results.

  31. Well, now we know where all that increase in atmospheric CO2 is coming from. Since the earth is a glass-ceilinged greenhouse that contains an ever increasing population of people and animals exhaling 40,000 ppm CO2, – we’re just going to have to eliminate some of these poison gas-emitting creatures – and this doesn’t even take into account flatulence! /sarc

  32. No mention of oxygen levels in the test or bedroom. What kind of a weekend did the test subjects have before the test? Not being proud of myself but while attending school I had the odd weekend that the pain did not stop until the middle of the week.

  33. Three 2.5 hour sessions in one day, with CO2 being “injected” into the atmosphere to achieve different concentration levels. Unless they have carbon scrubbing equipment (which they didn’t mention and I doubt) the only practical approach would be to start low and progress to high. The weakest results come from later in the day when people tire and just as importantly, they’ve now repeated the same or similar tasks three times so boredom and inattention becomes increasingly a part of the result.

    They don’t know what they’re measuring and they took the complete wrong approach to figuring it out. They should have started with physiology which would have been dead simple to do, just take blood samples. Show an increase in CO2 in the blood, or a decrease in O2 (as examples) and THEN you can start studying what the effects are. Without having shown that there is a significant change in blood chemistry, they’ve got nothing except a very crude and flawed correlation.

  34. I had a supervisor (my last one actually, before I hit the eject button and retired) and also several coworkers over the years who were Berzerkely alumni. I just thought the weirdness was high levels of pharmaceuticals! Who wudda thunk Incinerating all that THC would produce CO2 overload?

  35. What were the protocols for the test? The tests were all done on the same day. Were the tests done in sequence with the CO2 increasing? What was the food intake between tests (blood sugar) and the conditions during the break? At what time were the tests started and ended. Without the knowing the details, we cannot judge the results. In engineering an unexpected result causes a search for error in the calculations. If each test took an hour, with an hour break the 2500 ppm would be given after 5 hours of other testing, at the end of the day. Without reading the entire paper we are left with questions. He is right on one point. Larger study with all the variables controlled, starting with a review all literature and serious questioning of the validity of any results.

  36. I’m in for the O2 with the others here, what is the level for oxygen in a sub, probably higher than normal atmosphere.

  37. All kinds of issues crop up for me. Sudden versus acclimated exposure, subject knowledge of substance being studied, students detecting scent changes thus succumbing to subliminal suggestion, lack of placebo control (give them standard air but tell them otherwise) as well as scent change (add a “scent” to the air but don’t change CO2 levels). Heck, studies have shown that humans are capable of detecting hormonal scent changes on each other and our own. We may be able to subconsiously detect our own body scent reaction to air quality changes. This study has all kinds of variables not considered. And yet some doctoral committee will give a candidate a passing mark and we will have yet another CO2-punch-drunk idiot on our hands.

  38. …but shows no concern at the values of 600-2500 ppm of this medical study from LBNL. I figure if the Navy thinks it is safe for men who have their finger on the nuclear weapons keys, then that is good enough for me.

    This one paragraph blows this study to pieces. Not only nuclear weapons but multi-million dollar submarines.

    Do people’s bodies over time get used to the higher indoor levels the study looked at? What I mean is long term exposure might lead to the body and brain compensating for it. A bit like people who live at higher altitudes being more efficient at taking in oxygen? Just askin.

  39. Michael J. Kubat says:
    October 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Low rate of ventilation, CO2 levels go up but oxygen levels go down, hence (possibly) the cognitive difficulties. Did they correct for that?

    A good point.

  40. This could make a really good case for holding executive meetings in golf courses in Hawaii or the Caribbean.

  41. As an ancient former submariner I think the researchers need to experience the real world.

    As a diesel boat officer The CO2 levels would quickly exceed the levels they reguard as dangerous within a few hours. And I assure you that cognitive requirements of operating in a crowded interior an exterior environment were far in excess of the simple math they tested. Anything and everything was a direct threat to your life.

    As a nuclear officer I would spend 70 days at a time pushing 48 Hydrogen bombs around the waters to the north of the Soviet Union (back in the days before the PAL interlocks, those birds belonged to the crew!) Because the scrubbers rarely met the design goal of 1% ambient CO2, we were constantly living in levels near 25,000 ppm. (our only symptom was an increase in headaches above 2% — mostly psychosomatic. This was back in the days when smoking was still authorized. (you have never seen drug withdrawl problems until you see a smoker run out of cigarettes with 25 days of the patrol remaining) Alertness was manditory, with simulated launches weekly, and REAL reactor SCRAMs at least several times a week just as qualification drills. The only difference between the drills and an actual casualy is that the Engineer initiated one by secretly turning a switch in one, and that failsafe eqiupment did the switching in the other. (plus the dreaded paperwork that would result if we ever had to rely on the failsafes!!) How we responded was the same as were the many manifold ways we could have an utter disaster. Nothing ruins your day like being dead in the water, at **** feet, with the reactor dead, the main electrical dead, and the instruments showing their story by the light of a couple battery powered battle lanterns. The objective at this point being to forestalt YOU being dead.

  42. As a sufferer from asthma, i know that elevated levels of CO2 are beneficial and immediately reduce the symptoms of asthma as well as medication does.

  43. Roger, not just negative positive ions.. We breathe out far more than just CO2 and oxygen. tainted water vapour, spoors etc etc, and in an unventilated room , these build up and the sinuses have to work much harder to clean the air causing a build up of “stuff”. Sinus effects, sore eyes etc are likely to be one of the main causes of any cognitive decrease.

  44. As an old psychometrician, I can assure you that these tests of “decision making” ,an odd
    thing to test for, can be disregarded, despite the claims of predictive future behavior. There simply are no decent tests of such future behaviors, nor are their even any good rating scales of such behavior against which those predictions can be validated. The most reliable cognitive tests we have are IQ tests, and those are what should have been used. “Decision making ability” can scarcely be defined, much less measured. 99% of psychological studies are pure BS.

  45. You don’t suppose the changes in CO2 came in the form of beer? Now that can make even Irish lasses stupid. On the other hand, if I were a college student and was asked to experience the changes in CO2 levels in beer I would so sign up as a victim.

  46. AndyG55 says:

    October 17, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Roger, not just negative positive ions.. We breathe out far more than just CO2 and oxygen. tainted water vapour, spoors etc etc, and in an unventilated room , these build up and the sinuses have to work much harder to clean the air causing a build up of “stuff”. Sinus effects, sore eyes etc are likely to be one of the main causes of any cognitive decrease

    AndyG55…my thoughts exactly.Did they test for any other “foreign” substances in the air,perhaps brought into the test room from outside? How sterile were the test rooms to start with?
    old gezzer…have you hard your bedroom air tested?Many new refurbishments/upgrades to rooms emit toxic substances until fully cured.
    The excellent quality BC dope these clowns are smoking must be getting more expensive,so they gotta try even a blatant obvious scam as this test to get some grant payola.

  47. I conclude that the researchers want to avoid teaching. ;-)

    Poor building ventilation is primarily a problem due to transmission of communicable diseases and the fact that most building materials “breathe”. As many are finding after expensive renovations to make their old buildings “climate friendly” in Europe, sick building syndrome reduces air quality and lack of air circulation can lead to the rapid destruction of e.g. half-timbered houses; some of which survived for over 500 years, prior to “renovation”. Post-renovation, some are beyond repair in under 20 years.

    Even “younger” houses suffer from excess insulation. Post-construction insulation is added by pinning and gluing styrofoam sheets to the exterior walls before applying a synthetic render. It takes only a few seasons for mold to establish itself and expensive repairs to become due, including the disposal of the styrofoam waste. One “solution” is to incorportae fungicides into the render and adhesives… but they leach under the effect of rain and end up in the ground water and waterways.

    LIke those with PV solar systems who end up having to watch their houses burn down while the fire brigade stand by, making sure that the neighbours’ houses don’t also catch fire; the consequences of actions are seldom considered when fear or the quick buck rule “decision making”.

  48. No control group means the study is invalid.

    Anyone having taken a Statistics class, 101 per say, would know this by heart.

    Next patient.

  49. “Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges …”
    Hnmm…?

    “In the real world, CO2 concentrations in office buildings normally don’t exceed 1,000 ppm, except in meeting rooms, when groups of people gather for extended periods of time.”

    They must mean like in crowded debate halls, enclosed coliseum campaign speeches and U.S. Administration meetings, always crowds of staff, reporters and secret service agents… now that does start to make some sense. But why are some so immune? A pesky gene again?

  50. I’m not sure this study passes the sniff test. Exhaled air is about 4.5% CO2. Ambient air is about 0.04% CO2 (rounding up to 400 ppm). The rate of transfer across a gradient is proportional to the size of the gradient. The gradient is about 4.46% if you are standing on Mauna Loa. At 2500 ppm, the gradient is about 4.25%. Therefore, at 2500ppm you are able to get rid of your own internal CO2 at 4.25/4.46 = 95.3% of normal. It is hard for me to imagine that a difference of 4.7% in the rate of CO2 excretion would be noticed by the brain to such a degree. It would cause an infinitesimal respiratory acidosis, and move the pH from the normal 7.40 to something around 7.38, ignoring buffering effects, which would make it even less.

  51. The study’s in PDF here
    I’ve read it: Their methods were clear
    Random order, and blind
    But results of this kind
    Might just cause global warmists to fear:

    For they’re saying that now CO2
    Which is consensus science, it’s true
    That’s been settled so long
    They say now that it’s wrong
    And we don’t know what this gas will do

    The experiment seems well-designed
    But results so astounding to find
    As they say, with humility
    It “defies credibility”
    I wonder: Was this truly blind?

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  52. LOL! Very nicely done Keith! Alan should name you WUWT’s “Poet In Residence.” :>

    Following on from Nick: “Mannian statistics at work – ‘The stronger the effect you have, the fewer subjects you need to see it’. ”

    It’s TRUE! I have a penny that will land heads up 100% of the time! The effect is so strong that I only needed run the trial once. Results: Heads Up! Absolutely amazing.

    – MJM
    P.S. will sell penny to any gamblers here for $1million in low-denomination cash. No refunds. Individual results may vary. May cause hangnails. Do not see your doctor for advice.

  53. Michael J. Kubat says:
    October 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    “Low rate of ventilation, CO2 levels go up but oxygen levels go down, hence (possibly) the cognitive difficulties. Did they correct for that?”

    Very good point and question! Higher levels of CO2 with low levels of oxygen would be different to high levels of CO2 with a steady maintained rate of oxygen and ventilation, these studies seem like they can be tweaked too easily for a preconceived result.

  54. When you put a bunch of people together in an enclosed space, like kids in a classroom, O2 goes down while CO2 goes up. The fuzzy headed problems come from the reduced O2, not the increased CO2. Been there, done that.

  55. The plan of their experiment was good
    They kept conditions constant, as they should
    And randomized the sequence of events
    But I suspect some biased fingerprints

    Effects were so astounding, they could kill
    Scores dropped by 95%, near nil!
    How could this never have been seen before?
    I hope a replication try’s in store

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  56. When we tested medications for clear end points for FDA, we would usually need at minimum 60 treated, sixty “sham” treated controls, and sixty untreated controls. Patients were randomized, and they were not able to detect in any way which treatment they were receiving. Even then, we would have to often proceed to n=120 to get a statistically significant effect of treatment, even though result parameters were objectively measured. Subjects chosen also had imposed strict rejection criteria, that included drugs they were taking that could interfere, obesity, illnesses, etc.

  57. I wouldn’t automatically have any faith in any study done or sponsored by the Navy. Having seen how the radiation safety norms “developed” by corrupt scientists in Russia lead to servicemen’s bodies being sent back home in coffins after only a few months of normal service, without any recorded accidents, I would rather doubt any official data without independent verification.

    I understand the difference between the levels of corruption in the Russian and in the U.S. Navy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_corruption), but nothing is absolute. We can’t trust them just because they are the Navy. All their studies have goals to accomplish.

    Regarding the physiological effects of CO2, they are highly non-linear and vary with the phases of the wake-sleep cycle. It is possible to experience substantial ill effects from a moderately elevated CO2 concentration if you are asleep, and just as possible not see any effects under much higher concentrations while awake.

  58. Just maybe the sub-mariners become acclimatised to the effect of high CO2 levels and the test subjects are not?

  59. This is the sort of unsubstantiated BS that alarmists love. The main point is that it demonstrates the ‘urgent need’ for more funds to further investigate the ‘problem’. The heavily overused alarmist expression of “It’s worse than we thought” seems to apply here.

    It is similar to ‘ocean acidification’ by CO2 – you do the maths correctly here and you find the current rate of CO2 absorbtion by the oceans is less than one part per million per century; that’s an increase of just under 1% per century.

    Submarines excepted, surely in an absolutely worst case scenario, this is just no more than a case of: “Open the window, it’s feeling a little stuffy in here.”

    Pamela Grey’s comment earlier on about the procedures used in this study are absolutely correct – the findings would be laughed at in any real field of science, as the procedures used are simply not representative of anything in a real world situation, or compared to anything to test participant bias.

    It all sounds a little Mannian to me.

  60. An experiment we performed on ourselves at university, monitored by colleagues and by doing a series of calculations.:
    1. We rebreathed exhaled air, and found the CO2 exhaled produced a feedback that increased the depth of breathing. There was no apparent effect on reasoning , but the deep breathing induced became very uncomfortable.
    2. The rebreathed air had the CO2 scrubbed, so we were rebreathing nitrogen and a reducing amount of oxygen. The ability to perform calculations soon became badly impaired, and the experiment was in most cases stopped by colleagues, as the person doing the experiment was usually unaware of their impairment.

    It would seem that reduced oxygem is more important than higher levels of CO2.

  61. To supply the intra-service perspective:
    Proper ‘Matelots’ and the WAFU’s would note that no degradation in the cognitive functions of submariners would de detectable under any circumstances. What with them all being dumber than dead baby to begin with

    Matelot : someone serving in the surface fleet, a ‘proper’ sailor
    WAFU’S : Weapon and Fuel Users, Fleet Air Arm and RAF detachments serving aboard ships. A bane in the life of the Matelot, particularly quartermasters
    Dead Baby : A long sponge pudding steamed in cheesecloth

  62. Mean while, back in the real world, NASA conducted a massive research program to determin the long term effect of CO2 for people doing the most demanding of jobs – astronauts.

    Conclusion: NASA recommends an upper limit of 5000 ppm for missions of one thousand days, assuming a total air pressure of one atmosphere. Higher levels are acceptable for missions of only a few days.

  63. “Many people believe that breathing more air increases oxygen content in cells. This is not true. Generally, breathing more even reduces oxygen content even in the arterial blood. Indeed, hemoglobin cells in normal blood for very small normal breathing are about 98% saturated with O2. When we hyperventilate this number is about the same (in real life it gets less since most people make a transition to automatic costal or chest breathing that reduces arterial blood O2 levels), but without CO2 and the Bohr effect, this oxygen is tightly bound with red blood cells and cannot get into the tissues in required amounts. Hence, now we know one of the causes why heavy breathing reduces the cell-oxygen level of all vital organs”

    http://www.normalbreathing.com/CO2-bohr-effect.php#.UH_FhvLNdWs

  64. I have always found in stuffy rooms that it is the reduction in oxygen levels and increased heat more than increased carbon dioxide that causes poor attention levels. At school in winter all windows shut and the heating on a class of 30 or so could get very stuffy very quickly especially in smaller classrooms, no forced air ventilation in my school.
    James Bull

  65. In poorly ventilated meeting rooms CO2 levels can rise into the thousands. And I’ve been in such rooms. It’s difficult to tell, as a participant, whether you’re feeling sleepy because of the speaker’s boring your arse off, or it’s the raised CO2, or both. Probably both. It’s possible to use the rise in CO2 in a meeting room to calculate the room air change rate. I’ve done this, as part of a ventilation investigation, using chemical indicator tubes to measure the CO2 (Drager tubes).

    I agree that the study design is poor. No placebo, unclear selection criteria, small number of people, no allowance for accommodation or inurement, but I don’t think it was designed as yet more evidence of the danger of the terrible CO2 pollutant. Us sceptics are too sensitised to mickey-mouse, joke studies, there are so many that we see them everywhere. Our BS antennae are too highly tuned! In this case, although it was, and I’ll use a technical term here, a crap study, it wasn’t a joke study!

  66. There are long-term implications for global population growth in this work. Place yourself with a fecund person of the opposite gender in a small room for a night of sleep, knowing that each will be exhaling the above-mentioned 0.4% CO2 with each breath. Males know the implications for future progeny of the well-known phrase “Not tonight, I have a headache”.
    Add it to the already large list of disasters caused by an excess of CO2.

  67. “…I and my wife sleep in a room which is around 12ft x 12ft x 8ft. We had new double-glazing fitted, which is pretty airtight….”

    Thanks to all the responders, and particularly Lance Wallace who gave a very useful estimation of the whole situation. I suspect from his figures that many modern city dwellings subject occupants to CO2 levels in excess of 10,000 ppm after a nights sleep, and wonder if building codes take this into consideration…

    The most interesting thing to come out of the comments for me is that realisation that it’s not only CO2 build up that happens in a closed room, but oxygen depletion, humidity increase, and no doubt a host of other issues. There is a move towards cutting energy use in the UK (whose politicians have signed themselves up to the world’s most extreme CO2 savings targets as a vote catcher, and who now find that the targets are impossible to meet). As winter comes nigh, there are renewed pushes to achieve heroic levels of insulation. The downsides of excessive insulation need to be spread about more widely

  68. I cannot see double-blind – so that those blending the gas should not know (beforehand) the actual level in the experiment chamber.

  69. I think we’ve seen that the real problem here is all that nasty CO2 produced by people breathing.

    There is no safe level of exposure to Second Hand People. Second Hand People are Dangerous To Your Health. The only solution is to ban them from pubs and other public places. Once they are confined safely in their homes the world will be much safer.

    The problem is that they routinely use one of their four excretory functions (defecation, perspiration, urination, respiration) to exhale waste products into the air that the rest of us depend on for life. Those excretions include formaldehyde (used to preserve corpses), acetone (nail polish remover), acetic acid, acetaldehyde, 3,000 or more deadly VOCs (volatile organic chemicals) and, of course, that perniciously poisonous CO2. While Breathers cannot be totally eliminated because of protective laws, SOMEthing must be done to control them. Please join your local branch of the VHEMT (Voluntary Human Extinction MovemenT) at VHEMT.org and get active for the good of our children. Thank you.

    – MJM

  70. Earl Smith says:
    October 17, 2012 at 6:24 pm
    As an ancient former submariner

    Could Earl, or someone, clarify a point for me. The CO₂ levels given for an ssbn had a wide range varying down to zero. This is presumably because some of the measurements were taken next to the outlet from the scrubbers. Would that outlet be positioned where it would be of most benefit, e.g. the conning position, or simply where the designers could find a place to stick it?

  71. Let’s try another expieriment. Same number & selection criteria for test subjects as the original. In groups of 4 put them in hyperbaric chambers for 2.5 hours per session for three sessions on the same day and reduce the atmospheric pressure to equivalents of 5,000 feeet, 10,000 feet and 15,000 feet. You would quickly observe people suffer progressively more serious symptoms and degradation of cognitive functioning. You would probably conclude that people cannot live above 10,000 feet without severe cognitve impairment (and constant headaches).

    But they do; La Paz ranges from around 10,000 feet to over 13,000 feet, and people live even higher than that. 17,000 feet is the altitude above which US private pilots must have oxygen if not in a pressurized cockpit.

    People adapt to lower oxygen levels over time. That’s been proven by thousands of years of human history. I have absolutely no doubt they can adapt to higher levels of CO2.

    That being said, this type of study might be useful in setting targets for indoor CO2 levels for workpaces and public buildings.

  72. Fisk’s statement that “In our field we always had a DOGMA that etc etc..” immediately raises red flags about how “unexpected” the results really were. Shades of Lewandowsky here, I think.

  73. As an ex-submariner (RN), I can see what the researchers are getting at. Nevertheless, levels of CO2 and other gases like oxygen were monitored hourly. We used CO2 scrubbers to keep the level of CO2 down to a minimum. Our primary concern was the level of CO2 should we need to conduct an escape. Levels of CO2 at 3% resulted in slowed thought processes. 6% seriously impaired thought and judgement. At 9% you were considered effectively comatose and at 12% – Dead. Moral of the story – Keep the CO2 level below 3%

  74. Michael J. Kubat says: “…oxygen levels go down.”

    I agree and would surmise that varying degrees of hypoxia would produce similar results. If they did not monitor for O2 then the study is trash.

  75. There seems to some confusion about the different intelligences in play here and their purpose. Submariners have need of tightly focussed, process driven intelligence (something that seems not to be influenced by higher CO2 levels) whereas student intelligence of initiative and creativity in a stuffy classroom are impacted. Cognitive ability, or lack of, covers a wider spectrum than stupid or smart and is often dependent upon a given situation in both place and time…

  76. Could this be like a high altitude test?
    Test at Sea Level
    Test at half a mile above seal level
    Test at a mile above sea level

    I’m sure someone in Denver isn’t dumber than someone in NYC. Now if you move someone from NYC to a mile high their cognitive ability will suffer in the short term. But given a little time to adapt to the change in altitude their cognitive ability will get back to what it was at sea level.

    I’d bet if you let someone breath in 5,000 ppm for a week they will perform equal to what they perform at 390 ppm.

    If not then people in Denver are dumber than the rest of us lower altitude people.

  77. Tenuk says: “Conclusion: NASA recommends an upper limit of 5000 ppm for missions of one thousand days, assuming a total air pressure of one atmosphere. Higher levels are acceptable for missions of only a few days.”

    Thus even more evidence that this Berkley study is bunk. Projecting from the study’s “initiative” for 2500, 5000 would have over 95 out of 100 astronauts stuck on the couch playing video games in the capsule’s basement and ignoring controller requests to come back to earth.

    Apollo 13 astronauts experienced levels approaching 20,000 ppm CO2 for several days, (plus hypoxia and hypo-thermia), but they still managed to make the right decisions and execute tasks to make it back alive.

  78. I didn’t see it in this article or in the linked press release, but with all three trials occurring in the same day, which order were they done in? If they started with low CO2 and ended with high CO2, was the drop off in performance really due to CO2 concentration, or was it due to sitting in a boring situation for a day? I would expect to see a statistically significant falloff in performance between the first 2.5hr test and the last 2.5hr test done on the same day regardless of CO2 levels.

  79. Louis says:

    October 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    They did the “study” in one day, which means the order they conducted the sessions could have a big effect on the outcome. What they may have been measuring is how much better people think in the morning before they become bored, weary, or hungry. If they conducted the last session right after lunch when the blood rushes to the digestive track and people get the urge to nap, it would likely have had a negative effect on the results. They need to conduct the experiment again in a different order and see if the results are the same. I suspect they won’t be.

    I agree.

    Simply performing the essentially same test session repeatedly may get differeing results.

    Performing the sessions over multiple tays, varying the order, and comparing the results to both the same group and multiple other same sized, like groups, would be more useful.

    At this point, in my opinion, the information is not even preliminary and should not be promulgated.

    Releasing this information at this stage is embarrassing too the “researchers” (sic) and the facility.

  80. Amazing how the modern scientist is willing to admit intelligence and its synonyms are measurable, but only in certain contexts. Elsewhere it is taboo.

  81. I don’t see any mention of acclimation over time. When one is subject to an altered breathing atmosphere (such as found at high altitudes), it can take days or weeks to acclimate. Humans can adjust/adapt to it’s environment over time. They should have allowed for such. GK

  82. I have to be very sceptical of these results. 24 subjects? All done in a day? And they justify this by saying that the effects are so large that they can be observed in even a tiny population study.

    But if the effects are so large that they are unmistakable even in a tiny population, then how come nobody has seen them before? That is the problem. Unbelievable.

    If they had performed tests on thousands of subjects over a couple of years and then said there was a slight but significant impairment, then I might have accepted the results. But not this.

  83. Surely the US Navy would not raise the oxygen level in subs because of the increased fire risk in a warship?

  84. How does the inside of that submarine not melt down due to the millions of degrees temperature due to such high levels of CO2 (8000 ppm)???? /sarc

  85. The sad reality is that it is CO2 obsession and AGW extremism that impairs judgement.

  86. What their results show, is that stupidity is contagious ,over time exposure to these two will destroy students intelligence and critical thinking. And thats in just 4 hours, WOW quarantine is necessary.

  87. Surely the willingness to get inside a big steel tube and go way deep under water with nuclear explosives on board shows a decreased decision-making capability, long before any high CO2 levels are experienced?

    (Kidding, kidding… the Navy rocks.)

  88. “The stronger the effect you have, the fewer subjects you need to see it,”
    It seems to me that the smaller the group, the more likely it is for one or two outliers to skew the results.

  89. The experiment ran for six days
    But they only did four at a time
    Treating 22 folks in these ways
    (Two blew off the chance — almost a crime)

    But while CO2’s quite well-controlled
    And humidity, temp, as they say
    They skipped oxygen! It wasn’t polled!
    I was stabbed by this.

    O2, Bruté?

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  90. The breath you exhale is typically 4% or 40,000 ppm carbon dioxide. How can air inhaled with CO2 contents of 1000 ppm or even 2400 ppm possibly have the adverse effects being attributed here. Like AGW, these absurd conclusions may simply be what happens when the liberal mind attempts to do science.

    This discussion is missing some important aspects. The concentration of O2 in relation to barometric pressure and other gases. When we exhale the lung pressure rises to help force O2 into the blood for hemoglobin to acquire, and when we inhale, the partial pressure assists in release of CO2 per the differential between the air in the lung and the blood concentration. Check Apollo 13 and the aviation side of keeping our brains supplied with O2. Check out the N2 side effects as well. Check out the barometric pressure in a sub and the blend of gases. There is substantial research and real life data on the subject.

  91. “Although the sample size was small, the results were unmistakable. “The stronger the effect you have, the fewer subjects you need to see it,” Fisk said. “Our effect was so big, even with a small number of people, it was a very clear effect.””

    24 folks in four groups ie 6 per group=Meaningless “research”.

  92. Other considerations are in the extensive training that assists in recognizing how our atmospheric conditions are affecting our abilities while submarining and lofting about the heavens.

  93. I’m amazed at the amount of medical misinformation here. It seems like people with some science knowledge but no medical training or education about things like physiology, partial pressure, hemoglobin disassociation curve http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen-haemoglobin_dissociation_curve, the body’s homeostatic mechanisms to regulate blood pH (e.g. through respiratory and renal/metabolic means).

    For example, highflight56433 says that during exhalation “lung pressure rises to help force O2 into the blood for hemoglobin to acquire.” This is a miniscule effect, as passive diffusion plays the dominant role in the healthy lung. Far more O2 is carried in the blood by hemoglobin inside red cells than is dissolved in the plasma. In patients with lung compromise (e.g. pneumonia, ARDS), positive-pressure ventilation is sometimes used, but this is to keep alveoli open and reduce ventilation-perfusion mismatch rather than to “force O2 into the blood”).

    The body adjusts to changing blood pH using respiratory (acute, minutes to hours) and metabolic (chronic, days) means. Here’s a relevant topic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Respiratory_acidosis

    What this thread needs is expert commentary from a medical professional in the military, preferably the Navy or even Air Force. I didn’t read all the comments so might have missed it.

  94. Dodgy Geezer asks above about waking up with “a muggy head” after sleeping in a fairly airtight bedroom. While CO2 concentration is a possible hypothesis, it is also plausible (and in my opinion, far more likely) that the adverse effects are the result of outgassing of the materials that make up the room. Paint, carpet, the mattress and plastics of all kinds will continuously release small amounts of complex and sometimes quite strong chemicals for many years after manufacture. In high concentrations, these are what give your car that “new car smell”.

    In a normal room (or car), the regular turnover of air in the room rapidly dilutes that concentration of chemicals to a very low level – well below your ability to consciously smell them. If you, however, have the outgassing fixtures in an airtight room, the chemicals will accumulate. If you then confine yourself to a continuous 8 hour exposure, well, I’m not surprised you’re waking up with a muggy head. (By the way, you still may not notice the smell because of olfactory saturation – the brain’s tendency to stop recognizing constant background stimulous.)

    The concentration of CO2 is an interesting question but the anecdote doesn’t tell us anything about the hypothesis yet because it doesn’t exclude the alternative explanations.

  95. If Co2 was 2500 parts per million other gasses were below normal. So it could be due to the lack of oxygen.

  96. Here is a basic look at human respiration, note that normal respiration holds the lungs at 40 mm Hg and it does change with exercise. Mountain climbers, athletes, divers know something about respiration. You have to breath more to get rid of CO2 because your blood must regulate pH
    See wiki respiration or http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/301notes6.htm
    390 ppm = 0.039 percent = 0.3 mm Hg
    1000 ppm = 0.1 percent = 0.76 mm Hg
    5000 ppm = 0.5 percent = 3.8 mm Hg
    10000 ppm = 1 percent = 7.6 mm Hg
    52000 ppm = 5.2 percent = 40 mm Hg (basal metabolism)
    With exercise you will go higher but anything over 45 mm Hg is considered by the medics to hypercapnia

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypercapnia

    So if you are in a room where the air is 52000 ppm then how can the lungs get rid of CO2??
    Sounds dangerous no matter how fast you breath.
    I don’t remember exactly what my submarine atmosphere was normally but I think there was a warning alarm set at 1 percent. The air handling system monitored O2, CO2, CO and H2 continuously. O2 is manufactured electrolytically, with the H2 dumped. CO2 was scrubbed with alkaline solution. Another machine “burned off” any CO or H2, but those were never a real concern. There was a trained corpsman who did some random manual checking of the air handling equipment with “sniffer” type equipment.

  97. timc says:
    October 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    I’m in for the O2 with the others here, what is the level for oxygen in a sub, probably higher than normal atmosphere.

    Oh, sure, you want everything to burn well when you’re cooped up in a tin can.

  98. Alan Watt, CD (Certified Denialist), Level 7 says:
    October 18, 2012 at 3:33 am

    17,000 feet is the altitude above which US private pilots must have oxygen if not in a pressurized cockpit.

    The FAA will be after you!

    The rule is, if your are the pilot, oxygen all the time above 14,000ft; not more than 30 minutes without oxygen between 12,500 and 14,000ft. You are not required to supply your passengers with oxygen below 15,000ft.

  99. Even if the reduction in O2 is due to the oxidation of carbon to produce the CO2 rather than the dilution effect of adding CO2 to get the desired level for the experiment, the effect on the air’s oxygen content is fairly small. Additionally, it is the partial pressure of O2 that is the measure of importance rather than percentage of O2 in the air being breathed. If the conclusions of the study were due to changes in the partial pressure of oxygen, then similar effects could occur for normal variations in atmospheric pressure. Has anyone studied this?

  100. If you have high concentration of CO2, you may breathe deeper and faster. This causes your body to have lower O2 saturation due to the change in pH. Nowhere in this study do I see control for this confounding factor. Lower O2 saturation tends to decrease performance on a variety of tasks.

  101. “Given what I’ve learned about the Navy exposure, I think this is just another scare tactic to make CO2 look like an invisible boogeyman.”
    =============================================================
    Halloween is coming up soon. Do I smell a new horror movie with CO2 as the invisible boodgeyman?
    “The House that is Carbon Filled”
    “Whatever Happened to Carbon Jane?”
    “PsyCO2!” (I don’t know what they’d call the sequel.)

  102. From the study paper:

    http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/ehp.1104789.pdf

    re the “SMS” test used in the evaluation…
    A computer-based program called the Strategic Management Simulation (SMS) test collects data on performance in decision making under different conditions. The SMS test has been used to study the impact on people’s decision-making abilities of different drugs, VOCs from house painting, stress overload, head trauma, etc…
    The SMS measures complex human behaviors required for effectiveness in many workplace
    settings. The system assesses both basic cognitive and behavioral responses to task demands, as well as cognitive and behavioral components commonly considered as executive functions…..
    The raw scores assigned for each measure are linearly related to performance, with a higher score indicating superior performance. Interpretation is based on the relationship to established standards of performance excellence among thousands of previous SMS participants….
    Percentile ranks are calculated through a comparison of raw scores to the overall distribution of raw scores from a reference population of more than 20,000 U.S. adults, ages 16 to 83, who previously completed the SMS…

    hmmmm, I wonder if the CO2 concentration was controlled for these thousands of people who took the tests and established the standards to which our 22 subjects are being compared? This study is fatally flawed and they should have been able to see it before wasting everybodys money and time.

  103. ntesdorf mentioned elevated CO2 helping asthma. My grandmothers cure for hiccups – which I suffered from as a child – was to breath into and from a paper bag for a few moments. I thought it was a daft ‘old wives’ remedy but now realise that would give a ‘dose’ of high CO2 – BTW it works if anyone is afflicted by hiccups..

  104. Bloke down the pub says:

    October 18, 2012 at 3:22 am

    Could Earl, or someone, clarify a point for me. The CO₂ levels given for an ssbn had a wide range varying down to zero. This is presumably because some of the measurements were taken next to the outlet from the scrubbers. Would that outlet be positioned where it would be of most benefit, e.g. the conning position, or simply where the designers could find a place to stick it?

    First off, my statements coresponded to much earlier equipment (third generation self contained systems built in the ’60s). (and diesel boats which had only surface and ventilate for controls) What was done was take oilfield amine scrubbers and modify them to take their supply from ambient air (actually downstream of the CO-H2 burners which also reduced hydrocarbons and upped CO2). Since they were only rated at 1% CO2 it would be expected that this would be the state of perfectly operating equipment, something that was next to impossible to achieve, hense normal being 1% – 2.5%. My guess is that the “zero” reading was obtained while the SSBN was snorkeling (and ventilating with surface air)

    The scrubbers take their supply in the engine spaces (aux machinery room) and then pipe the return fwd to the fan room for general distribution. So no special treatment given to control room.

    Now the O2 level is a different story. The engineering gang controled the bleed of O2 into the air (and sometimes ensured that lots of cool O2 headed right to maneuvering from the piping just outside, people had a tendency to prefer to stand just under the outlet) The bleed rate being approximately 1 lb of O2 per day per man, hardly a rapid release.
    We contantly monitored CO2, O2, H2 and Organics. Because the Engineeering Officer of the Watch maintained a “coloring book” graphing the levels it would be hard to sureptitiously increase O2 levels too much, but local levels of O2 were a little higher back aft than for the fwd types.

    We were more apt to notice a hydrocarbon front approaching from the galley than minor variations in O2 or CO2.

  105. “Although the sample size was small, the results were unmistakable.” “The stronger the effect you have, the fewer subjects you need to see it,” Fisk said.

    Or, to put it another way; The fewer subjects you have, the easier it is to find what you want to find. Like the Norwegian “scientist” who did research on gender. With only one subject. Herself.

  106. Sorry, missed the ref. Must be too much CO₂

    Earl Smith says:
    October 18, 2012 at 8:01 pm

  107. As a lawyer who started out by attending medical school for two years, I think I have a better perspective on the merits of this study and also on the rhetoric that surrounds the climate change wars.

    The mechanisms of adaption to increased CO2 levels have been well known for decades. The instantaneous response is to breathe more rapidly and deeply, thereby purging CO2. I think it’s fair to say that most of public believes that we breath to get oxygen in. Not so, your respiratory rate at this moment is driven by your need to get CO2 out. Oxygen is so easily absorbed near sea level that it’s a “can’t miss” proposition for anyone with reasonably healthy lungs. If you hold your breath, it’s not the lack of oxygen that eventually makes you give in to breathing. It’s the build up of CO2. More specifically, our bodies closely regulate the pH of blood. Increased CO2 dissolves in water as carbonic acid, lowering the pH. Our bodies are programmed to regulate pH very, very tightly by increasing respiration to raise pH and to slow respiration to lower pH.

    Adaption to a lowered pH over a longer time span is regulated by the kidneys. A sustained drop in pH stimulates the kidneys to excrete acid. Mild COPD would be a fatal condition but for the very powerful, but slower adaption to lowered pH that kidneys provide.

    So, I think the visceral response of Anthony and the forum to this study is not well justified. The finding is that a sudden and immediate increase to 600, 1000 and 2500 ppm results in a mild impairment of cognition. The methodology is appropriate for the authors’ stated purpose, which is to gauge the effect of walking into a building with chronic, increased CO2 levels. Their findings need to be independently verified, but they do not shock. It has long been known that any deviation from baseline pH affects cognition. There are plausible interpretations of this study that I can make.

    The study has nothing to do with the effects of a slow, gradual ramping up of CO2 levels, as in submarines or in the atmosphere. Those changes will be well buffered by the kidneys and would not be expected to show similar results. In fact, I don’t see where the authors have even made an attempt to relate their findings to the mild increases in atmospheric CO2.

    My impression is that WUWT was more button down and more to my liking a few years ago. Unfortunately, there is a tendency now to attack anything that moves.

  108. The study of CO2 in an enclosed room is nothing new. In The Story of Wandering Atoms by M.M.Pattison Muir,Praelector in Chemistry of Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, published in 1899, the author who discusses CO2 chemistry and effects, including measurements in English and Scottish country and towns, he points to its value as part of the natural and industrial environment and in connection with CO2 in closed rooms states: “Inasmuch as 100 volumes of the expired breath of human beings contain about 4 1/2 volumes of carbon dioxide, it is evident that the atmosphere of rooms wherein many people are congegated must soon become rich in this poisonous gas, unless some efficient method of ventilation is adopted to remove the carbon dioxide and replace it by fresh air. A school-room, or lecture room, is generally supposed to be efficiently ventilated if the amount of carbon dioxide does not exceed 6 or 8 volumes per 10,000 volumes of air; in very many schoolrooms the quantity of carbon dioxide amounts to 10 volumes per 10,000; it frequently rises to 15 volumes, and in not a few cases to 20, or 25, or even to 35 volumes per 10,000 volumes of air; in some schools in Austria as much as 55 volumes of this gas have been found in 10,000 volumes of the air of the rooms. In some cases, for instance in schools at Aberdeen, Dundee, and Edinburgh, it has been shown that the highest Government grants, per scholar, are earned by those children who attend the best ventilated schools; in the schools at Sheffield, on the other hand, no connexion [sic] could be traced between the ventilation of the schools and the amount of the grants earned.”
    So you see, nothing new.

  109. Allan Watt makes a good point (October 17, 2012 4:53 pm). He says ” the disparity of this study’s results and the experience of the Navy is whether people adapt to higher CO2 levels over time” (bold mine). Even in just a few days, the human body and brain have an amazing ability to adapt. The subjects of this experiment appear to have had almost none.

    The wheels are coming off “global warming” and “climate change”. But the leaders of the cAGW religion are still entrenched and still well funded. They still run the IPCC railroad and a lot more. They adapt, too. “CO2-is-bad-for-brains” could be a trial balloon for their new war cry.

Comments are closed.