Indoor Air Pollutants May Impede Creativity: Study

Image: (from left) Members of the research team include NTU Asst Prof Ng Bing Feng, NTU graduate Lau Wee Siang, NTU PhD graduate Dr Shmitha Arikrishnan, former NTU senior research fellow Dr Adam Charles Robert, and NTU Assoc Prof Wan Man Pun

Air quality in the office may affect our level of creativity at work, scientists at NTU Singapore have found.

Working with the global air filter manufacturer Camfil on a shared research project, the NTU scientists found in a study that high levels of volatile organic compounds - gases released from products such as detergents, pesticides, perfumes, aerosol sprays, paint - affected the study participants' creativity when they were asked to build 3D models with LEGO bricks.

Using a statistical analysis, the NTU team estimated that reducing total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) by 72% could improve a student's creative potential by 12%.

TVOC is an indicator that refers to the volume of volatile organic compounds in the air. Indoor VOCs are emitted from interior decoration sources such as paints and carpets and household products such as detergents and air fresheners.

This study, conducted on the NTU Smart Campus, is part of a partnership between the University and Camfil to investigate the impact of indoor air quality on the cognitive performance of adults, test various air filter technologies in tropical weather conditions, and deliver innovative clean air solutions combined with optimised energy efficiency.

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