You should know the CO2 effects on your health!


We’re all well-versed on CO2 by now, and how it has been a major contributor to the climate change we are currently experiencing. As a prominent greenhouse gas, CO2 presents an existential threat to our planet. While these are all valid concerns, there seems to be less emphasis on the CO2 effects for humans. We at VouchForMe believe it crucial to inform people about the physical implications of CO2 effects.

CO2 effects on health

What is CO2?

CO2 is a natural, odourless and colourless gas. It has many sources, not least ourselves; we breathe in oxygen and expel CO2 (and nitrogen). CO2 also comes from the burning of fossil fuels. While the common greenhouse gas only makes up 1% of the atmosphere, human activity has been responsible for a 50% rise in CO2 levels since the industrial revolution of the 18th century. Fast forward to the 21st century, and global CO2 emissions have surpassed 36.44 billion tonnes. That’s from human output alone!

The health risks of CO2

An important disclaimer: CO2 is vital for life to continue! You need it to breathe, and plants and trees use it to produce oxygen, which you also depend on to breathe. CO2 in normal concentrations (250-400ppm) is perfectly healthy. Problems can occur, however, as CO2 concentrations begin to rise (especially in a closed room). 

A variety of health implications from CO2 effects can arise. These may include:

  • Headaches: You most likely have experienced headaches in busy towns full of cars, buses and factories. The increase in CO2 effects causes brain fog and poor concentration.
  • Tiredness: If you have ever sat in front of an open fire on a winter’s night, you may remember feeling drowsier than usual. Closed windows and reduced oxygen levels due to the fire can cause tiredness and inhibit your alertness.
  • Increased heart rate: A symptom often experienced by deep-divers. Hypercapnia occurs when the body is unable to expel CO2 efficiently.

It is important to understand the different ranges of CO2 levels, and the effects they can have on humans. Check out our outline of CO2 effects below:

  • 250 – 400 ppm: Normal CO2 concentration in open areas such as your garden, a park, the beach.
  • 400 – 1000ppm: A typical CO2 level range of indoor yet well-circulated areas (your office, your house, a restaurant etc.).
  • 1,000 – 2,000 ppm: Occupants of an enclosed space may start to complain of drowsiness and poor airflow. Poor concentration and focus are common. Fleet drivers may recognize these symptoms during/after long road trips, especially on busy roads.
  • 2,000 – 5,000 ppm: Headache symptoms will start to set in. Occupants will feel sleepy and notice the air has become stuffy and unpleasant to breathe.

If you live in a bustling, crowded city you may experience these symptoms as a result of the CO2 levels from cars, buses, trains and buildings.

  • 5,000 ≤ ppm: Beyond 5,000 ppm indicates a possibility of toxicity in the immediate airspace. Oxygen deprivation may even set in at these levels. Symptoms include but are not limited to dizziness, loss of consciousness, extreme anxiety and even seizures. Such high levels violate regulations set out by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  • 40,000 ppm: Immediate risk of death for those exposed to such high levels of CO2. Even brief exposure is enough to cause death or serious brain injury. CO2 effects are most likely to be the cause of death in the event of a fire.

We encourage you to assess your CO2 exposure!

It is clear from the information outlined above that CO2 effects can pose a real threat to humans if not monitored. We believe that employers, especially fleet managers (and drivers themselves) ought to be mindful of the risks of CO2 to the body. Drivers are constantly on the road and spend a lot of time exposed to CO2. Neglecting to associate CO2 levels with health implications could lead to your drivers falling ill, possibly even leaving your company, and ultimately damaging your business. 

Some ways you can reduce CO2 exposure at home include:

  • Sufficient airflow: Make sure your home is well vented and that there are plenty of windows to allow fresh air in.
  • Plants: Plants use CO2 to produce oxygen – a no-brainer if you’re looking to reduce CO2 effects. Plus, they’re visually attractive and can boost your mood!
  • Watch out for open flames: While pretty to look at and a great source of heat, open fires eat up the oxygen in your home, turning it into CO2. Limit how often you light a fire.
  • Install a CO2 monitor: A carbon dioxide monitor will notify you if your CO2 levels are sub-optimal, allowing you to choose some of the above methods to reduce the threat of CO2 effects.

Join the cause!

If you’re interested in learning more about CO2 effects, follow us on our socials (insert links) to keep up with the discussion. If you’re a fleet manager or driver, or even just a regular person looking to reduce your CO2 emissions, check out our recent blog post: Green Driving Tips to lower your Carbon Footprint!