As seen in the Winter 2017 Issue of “Industrial Hygiene News”
A 2016 study by Dr. Joseph Allen of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health linked indoor air quality with cognitive function, opening the door for a new set of criteria for industrial hygienists to consider when implementing corrective action.
The study compared cognitive function of twenty-four participants in different professions by measuring ventilation, CO2, and VOCs in a conventional office building, a Green Building meeting occupant health and energy efficiency standards set by the LEED Council, and a Green Plus Building with twice the ventilated air rate required for LEED certification. The results demonstrated 61% higher cognitive function in the Green Building and 100% higher cognitive function in the Green Plus Building. More specific findings about information usage, the ability to gather and apply information, strategize, plan, prioritize and sequence actions demonstrated an increase by 172%-183% in the Green Building and 288%-299% in the Green Plus Building.
A separate study demonstrates the relationship between CO2 and anxiety. Well ventilated workspaces with lower levels of CO2 correlate with decreased levels of worker anxiety.
A short history of IAQ begins around mid-century, at or around the 2nd industrial revolution. The Great Smog of London was in 1952, though WHO, the World Health Organization, first published its findings of air pollution in 1958. By 1970, the US passed the Clean Air Act and OSHA. In 1984, WHO reported that 1/3 of buildings worldwide might be the subject of complaints related to Indoor Air Quality. Interestingly enough, estimates of the number of buildings projected for completion by 2050 account for 70 percent of our infrastructure today, suggesting a spike in data between 1984 and 2017. In 2006, WHO wrote about Indoor Air Quality for the first time, identified particulate matter (PM) as a pollutant, and explicitly recognized that the absence of contaminants like CO reflected the limited availability of resources. The 2006 publication prompted the EPA to revise their 1997 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM 2.5 for a 24 hour day to 35 µg/m³ of air.
What does this all mean? To start, it demonstrates a rise in demand for maintaining higher standards for the most shared global and public resource as well as the need for democratized Indoor Air Quality data.
Conventional methods for collecting Indoor Air Quality data relied heavily on expensive stationary devices. In the United States, for example, the federal government has a network of sensors on towers monitoring particulate matter. The cost of each sensor is $100,000.00. In 2013, Edinburgh City monitored PM 2.5 using a single station. Thus, data is collected from only a few instruments but is representative of a broad geographic area. Furthermore, a trained expert must configure, operate, and maintain these devices.
The fourth industrial revolution accounts for significant advancements in technology and economic change. Before IoT (“Internet of Things”), the intricate design of stand-alone systems yielded high production costs based on cost per unit. Moreover, conventional business models limited the source of revenue to the sale of a single product, a piece of hardware, on a per unit basis.
In the IoT world, all devices are by definition connected to the cloud, opening up a new avenue for access to data. The connection to the cloud enables a hybrid solution for system processing locally and on the cloud. Unlike stand-alone systems, hybrid solutions facilitate the design and development of low-cost devices, while also introducing multiple streams of revenue from the sale of the “thing” and the sale of the “service.” The service can be the transmission of data from the device to the cloud, access to data from the cloud, and hosting of data from the web. Thus, cloud services create a bridge between people and machines, through the collection of enormous amounts of data from “things,” aka sensors, machines, and devices, by way of the cloud.
IAQ Market Today
Though we now know that exposure to PM can be higher indoors in the presence of an indoor source, in 2009 the WHO report did not set out quantitative guidelines, referring to the complex nature of the exposure and associated uncertainties. For the first time, industrial hygienists have an opportunity to collect quantitative data of multiple IAQ measurements simultaneously.
As a direct result of the IoT, a new paradigm emerges in Indoor Air Quality monitoring leading to the much-needed democratization of Indoor Air Quality data. Today, the ability for large-scale and rapid deployment of tens of thousands of devices transforms Indoor Air Quality monitoring and facilitates the collection of quantitative data in any infrastructure. The result is a better understanding and more thorough assessment of exposure.
The use of IoT devices does away with configuration and calibration required when using industry reference instruments as well as complicated installation, maintenance, and operation of the system. Furthermore, there is a reduction in overhead as a result of lower cost per units, making IoT devices a fraction of the price of industrial reference instruments. What is more, IoT solutions generate new sources of revenue with value-added services. Consequently, indoor air quality monitoring is financially feasible at room level in any infrastructure. Companies that adapt to these technological advancements are in a better position to grow, profit, and stay in business. The result is a win-win case for both the buyer and the seller.
But even with such advancements, few sensors produce reliable enough data to be used in studies or by regulations. In comparison to static monitoring, continuous monitoring enhances high temporal-spatial resolution and variability of air pollution, which so far has been challenging to address. These characteristics, the level of accuracy and the precision of the measurements, are the distinguishing characteristics of indoor air quality monitors on the market.
Continuous indoor air quality monitoring in any infrastructure that maintains the integrity of accuracy and precision of measurements, and produces never before seen information and analytics results in better working spaces, everywhere in the world.
Airthinx, Inc., based out of Irvine, California, and powered by the Netronix IoT platform, which ensures security and reliability, recently launched it’s Indoor Air Quality monitoring solution. The solution offers continuous monitoring of air quality in real time at room level in any infrastructure, including commercial buildings, workspaces, schools, healthcare facilities, and residences. With the implementation of an IoT-based solution, the portable, lightweight device is designed to measure air quality data with the level of precision and accuracy of industry reference instruments, at a fraction of the cost.
Airthinx measures a comprehensive set of IAQ pollutants including particles (PM 1, PM 2.5, and PM 10 ), gas (VOCs, CO2, and CH2O) and environmental conditions which affect how pollution forms and lingers (temperature, humidity, and pressure). The innovative solution can be customized to measure any additional parameters. Data is securely uploaded from the cloud to a fully hosted web application, empowering users with access to information on a user-friendly interface, in any location.
As a further testament to its revolutionary DNA, Airthinx adopts the TaaS business model, offering enterprises the opportunity to generate
revenue from the sale of the device and service, making it affordable for the buyer, profit generating for the seller, and marking a historical moment in the democratization of air quality data.
• Allen JG, MacNaughton P, Satish U, Santanam S, Vallarino J, Spengler JD. 2016. Associations of cognitive function scores with carbon dioxide, ventilation, and volatile organic compound exposures in office workers: a controlled exposure study of green and conventional office environments. Environ Health Perspectives 124:805–812; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510037
• Woods SW, Charney DS, Goodman WK, Heninger GR. Carbon Dioxide-Induced Anxiety Behavioral, Physiologic, and Biochemical Effects of Carbon Dioxide in Patients With Panic Disorders and Healthy Subjects. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1988;45(1):43–52. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1988.01800250051007
Julie Spitkovsky, Communications & Development, Airthinx, Inc.