April 16, 2020
TFW you see an acronym you don't understand. We’ve all been there. For those new to indoor air quality monitoring, we’ve compiled a list of frequently used terms to help keep you in the know.
The Air Quality Index monitors outdoor air quality. When the air in your city is unhealthy, you may receive alerts, such as warnings for young children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions to stay indoors, or requests to cut down on commuting during California's 'Spare the Air' days. Conversely, while we shelter in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may hear about better AQI than usual.
Of course, you’ve heard of Carbon Dioxide and already know that we contribute to CO2 every time we exhale. But why should you care about CO2, and when does it affect you personally versus the planet? Crowded classrooms, meetings in closed door conference rooms, working from your makeshift WFH office with poor ventilation - all of these scenarios can cause high CO2 and significant decreases in cognition and productivity.
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems can be found in nearly any form factor of buildings, including individual homes, schools, and hotels to commercial spaces and skyscrapers. Even cars have HVAC systems. The purpose of HVAC is to provide comfort (think temperature, air circulation, etc) for occupants. However, these systems can also help with energy efficiency and contribute to better indoor air quality when properly cared for.
Indoor Air Quality appears in the media far less frequently than AQI. However, IAQ is arguably the more important term between the two. On average, people spend 90% of their time indoors, and that figure is from before we started to work from home. Given the negative effects poor air quality has on human health, monitoring and managing IAQ will become increasingly important over time.
Indoor Environmental Quality includes IAQ but may also encompass broader factors that contribute to building occupants' well-being and health, such as water potability, lighting, sound, ergonomics, aesthetics, and more. IEQ has been proven to affect building occupants in positive ways and has seen increased interest in both residential and commercial design, as well as in achieving green building certifications.
Particulate Matter refers to a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air, and 2.5 is the diameter in micrometers. As a reference point, the diameter of the average human hair is 30 times larger. PM2.5 is so small it can permeate membranous tissue and travel into the bloodstream and lungs, causing short-term irritation and potential long-term health effects, including respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a diverse group of chemicals that are commonly found in household products and building materials. They can cause dizziness, headaches, and more serious symptoms. The best way to mitigate VOCs is to understand how certain products and activities, such as cleaning or cooking, can increase the chemicals in your air. Then take action to reduce them.
When it comes to air quality, knowledge is empowering. Awair Element tracks temperature, humidity, PM2.5, CO2, and VOCs. Gain insights about your indoor air quality as well as tips on how to improve it so you can take control of your air and breathe easy.
To learn more about Awair Element, please click the link below.
To better understand the impact unhealthy outdoor air quality has on indoor environments, Awair aggregated data from its indoor air quality (IAQ) monitors during the smoked-filled air days due to fires along the West Coast of the United States.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that tens of billions of dollars are lost every year due to low office air quality impacting the health of office staff. The science of indoor air is so important that a report published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health cited indoor air as one of the nine key foundations of a healthy office building.
Evidence suggests that COVID-19 lockdowns have significantly improved outdoor air quality. In the northeastern U.S., NASA registered a 30% drop in air pollution. UK researchers believe cleaner air has saved thousands of lives. In China, meanwhile, a recent study even suggests that lockdown “has saved more lives through improved air quality than were lost to COVID-19.”