Why do we need indoor air quality monitoring (IAQ)?

Indoor air pollution is the lesser known and talked-about problem of our lives today. While we are adequately aware about the problem of air pollution outdoors, what skips our attention is the harmful air that we are exposed to in our indoor environments. Some of the most common indoor air pollutants are:  

  1. Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which have adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of commonly used products. Inconspicuous products used in day-to-day life such as air fresheners, personal care products like perfumes, certain building materials in paints, carpets, and cleaning agents are all known to release VOCs in surrounding air.  They typically contain elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur, or nitrogen, which are mostly released from burning fuel such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas.
  2. Indoor Particulate Matter (PM) is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope. Particle pollution includes:
    • PM10: inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller
    • PM2.5: fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller. How small is 2.5 micrometers? Think about a single hair from your head. The average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter – making it 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.
  1. Radon (Rn)
  2. Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  3. Mold
  4. Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

There are many IoT-based Indoor air quality monitoring platforms which help us see what is hiding in the air we breathe and achieve a healthier, more comfortable home environment. Smart indoor air quality sensors help us optimize ventilation and building maintenance for energy savings, and ensure a happy, healthy and productive workplace for occupants of an indoor space. It all starts with sensors. Advanced technology has brought down the cost of indoor air quality monitoring by creating smaller, less expensive sensors; you’ll need enough to place them strategically throughout your building space to produce reliable results. The EPA recommends one sensor for every 10,000 square feet. Core categories for sensor measuring are: Carbon monoxide, Particulate matter, VOCs, Humidity, Formaldehyde, and Radon. Sensors are also capable of measuring methane, bioaerosols, and more; depending on your specific concerns and the activities taking place within your building, it may be appropriate to measure additional pollutants beyond those listed above.

References

  1. Volatile Organic Compound
  2. Indoor Air Quality Monitoring: How To Test, Measure & Improve

Further study

  1. Development of an IoT-Based Indoor Air Quality Monitoring Platform
  2. Indoor Pollutants and Sources: Basic Information on Pollutants and Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Author

Suman Satish

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