How to “see” what’s in the air you’re breathing and control its quality

By Carmen Dulguime

We’re all being asked to stay indoors in quarantine to avoid getting COVID-19 infection. But the air quality in our homes or offices may be 5x worse because of other factors that can harm us. It’s a good thing there is actually a way to “see” viruses and pollutants hovering around so we can put up our best defense.

Photo by Elmer Lapeña

It’s difficult to fight an enemy that you can’t see, and the pandemic is proving that. The coronavirus continues to mutate into variants that are more virulent than the last. Unfortunately, viruses like COVID-19 are not the only ones that are threatening our health from right inside our homes or offices. There are dust mites, mold, smoke, pet dander, ozone (caused by household chemicals) and other indoor pollutants.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), poor indoor air quality can cause irritation, asthma attack, headache, respiratory disease, heart ailment and even cancer. There is also the matter of the “sick building syndrome” wherein people who stay inside an enclosed space at the same time get similar symptoms until they leave the building. This may explain why families and officemates sometimes get the flu, for example, one after another.

There are, of course, measures we can take to improve indoor air quality. We can use air purifiers, UV light and dehumidifiers to improve the quality of air that we breathe. The thing is, we don’t know exactly when to use each one, how long we need to keep them on, and where to place them unless we see exactly where the airborne enemies are thriving.

An indoor air quality monitor like uHoo does the job of detecting harmful viruses and particulate matter that disrupt the quality of air we breathe indoors. It monitors in real time the air quality factors that generally affect our health, provides a virus index, sends alerts when it detects harmful elements, and gives suggestions on what to do to address specific air quality issues.

Using a mobile device, the uHoo app will recommend when to open windows to get proper ventilation, turn the dehumidifier on when moisture builds up, or clean the air conditioner’s filters to get rid of accumulated dust. In a way, it’s just like looking at the nine air quality indicators through the mobile interface: 1) air temperature so you can sleep better; 2) dust to avoid allergies; 3) nitrogen dioxide to eliminate fumes; 4) carbon monoxide to lessen fatigue; 5) air pressure to ease headache; 6) humidity to avoid mold formation; 7) carbon dioxide to increase focus; 8) volatile organic compounds to lessen chemicals; and 9) ozone to avoid irritation on eyes, nose, and skin. The virus index can help determine when it’s time to disinfect to help deactivate the virus. 

It is said that humans breathe in about 11,000 liters (15 kg) of air each day. And if we consider what the EPA said about indoor air being two to five times more harmful than the air outdoors, we are forced to ask ourselves: do we stay in, or go out in the middle of this pandemic? Quarantine is still the protocol, so the best we can do is to ensure we get proper air ventilation and circulation inside our home or office. Get air purifiers, use electric fans with air conditioners and use dehumidifiers – and find out when and where these are actually needed. 

Fight for the air that we breathe. The good news is, we now know that the enemy is no longer invisible if we have the right tool.

About the Writer

beingKirei keeps two personal blogsites: beingKirei and Virtual Cubicle. She created these initially for self-expression, but she realized that she can do more with her God-given writing gift. Finding inspiration in Proverbs 31:8 (Speak for those who cannot speak; seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction), she started writing about people she meets and have meaningful conversations with. She found some of their stories need to be told and inspire others. She contributes to NewsFeed 360 on top of working in the editorial department of WSP Inc.. Aside from writing, she tries to learn photography, play the ukulele and guitar, and read until she falls asleep.

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