What will I find when I measure air quality?
A lot of people have asked us this question. Being from Vancouver, Canada - we live in one of the greenest and cleanest cities in the world. How could I possibly benefit from an air quality monitor?
This series of blog posts will depict things that we found in our houses and around town, just like you would. Recently we walked around with a well known, very expensive, particulate matter monitor. Detecting particles in the air is what Tzoa does - and these particles have the greatest global environmental effect on human health, even being classified as carcinogenic by the W.H.O.
Particulate Matter is the top metric for air quality levels in highly polluted cities like Beijing and Delhi. We typically think about air quality as a city-wide issue, or a global issue, but we don't normally recognize it as the personal issue that it is. When we do, we usually make the connection through the lens of caring for our children or our next generations, but not ourselves.
Part 1: Cooking Breakfast
Studies show that we spend roughly 90% of our time indoors. Wow! We really need to get out more often. That said, Our households are vulnerable to collecting dust and emitting pollution, which can be very hazardous to our health. Your air quality can contribute to loss in productivity, focus, energy - all the way up to headaches, cardiac and respiratory problems. For this blog post - we recorded someone cooking breakfast like they normally would.
We will use micrograms instead of milligrams (x100) in this post for PM10 levels, and try to use layman terms that will appear in our app.
The air quality levels started off around 30. Shortly after frying our breakfast the levels more than doubled to 67, and doubled again to 115. The readings hit a peak of over 160 which is a 500%+ increase from where we had started. These are levels typically seen in polluted cities across India and China, not the highest levels they encounter by a long-shot, but definitely high.
What was most surprising about this experience is not how high the levels get - but how long they take to come back down - and how wide spread the effects are throughout the house. These levels were exactly the same far off into a partially segregated dining room.
The readings took 3-4 hours to get back to the levels we started recording at shortly after cooking, and probably would have taken a few more hours to come back down to 30 (we lost patience and this device is VERY loud).
Cooking is something we do everyday, sometimes multiple times a day. Knowing that we can control air pollution levels for ourselves and our family is very important to our long-term health and short-term decision making. A recent study showed that Pregnant Women Exposed To Air Pollution Have Up To Double The Risk Of Having An Autistic Child - this is just one powerful example of these effects.
What can we do in this situation?
Using a hoodfan while cooking is imperative in this scenario. We actually did turn the hoodfan on half way through cooking, but it was both too late and the hoodfan had little effect because it is 25 years old and has only been cleaned once (metal-type). We tested the outdoor air before and after and it was sitting at a sparkling clean 8 to 10 micrograms. Opening the windows and ventilating/diluting the air pollution would have been a very compelling option in this instance. Having this data is crucial, and TZOA will show not only this data, but also provide these recommendations & notifications to your smartphone.
This is citizen science meets health/wellness; fashion meets environmental empowerment - all in one tiny device. Just imagine all of the interesting things we will find using TZOA - not to mention that we do much more than air quality.
We hope you are as excited as we are, and we look forward to bringing you part 2 of this blog series!
-Kevin R. Hart, Team Tzoa