The air we are breathing at home, office, school and even while we are exercising outside can impact our performance and health. Individuals have known for years that one hour spent in crowded, hot, stuffy rooms can make them feel sleepy, lethargic or even faint. Instinctively people would seek out fresh air. Now, scientists at Harvard have demonstrated that the air quality thats found in traditional office buildings can also impact mental performance. The purpose of this blog is to discuss some of the benefits of how low cost personalized sensors allow us to monitor the quality of the air we are breathing along with other physical measurements so that one can take steps to maintain peak performance. First, lets discuss three observations….

  1. Many people in developed countries spend 90% of their time inside homes, schools, offices, factories, commercial buildings or cars where personal toxin exposures aren’t monitored.
  2. Physical surroundings, (temperature, humidity, sound, light, etc) and what’s in the air you and your family are breathing is almost always quite different when inside buildings from outside. Information reported by government agencies at outside monitoring stations is also quite different from what’s found at a personalized level in buildings. Air entering buildings is impacted by vehicle traffic, dust, local weather conditions and adjacent building emissions. Building air conditioning and heating systems, occupancy, furnishings, and activities can cause air quality levels to vary greatly from room to room even within the same building. Tiny dust particles and toxic chemicals emitted by furnishings and experience wide variations in concentration over short periods of time due to the operation and design of the building air handling systems, occupancy and activity. For example, homes, schools and offices are now encouraged to save energy and as a result have less fresh air. The result is high levels of particulate matter and volatile chemicals known as Volatile organic compounds or VOCs and other toxins can build up over time. Even CO2, which humans emit, can become problematic in schools and offices because of a focus on minimizing air conditioning and heating cost.
  3. Numerous peer reviewed studies conclusively demonstrate that both the toxin concentration and the duration of the exposure impact human performance and health. Sensitivity to the toxins, toxin concentration, exposure time, and physical activity during the exposure can drastically impact the immediate and longer term impact.

In summary, residents of developed countries spend over ninety percent of their time inside buildings and cars where the quality of the air can become stale enough to impact mental performance and long term health. In a future blog, Sensortel will discuss how low cost sensors can help individuals address the problem of stale air in buildings.