May 20, 2021

How Monitoring Air Pollution Helps People with Asthma

Asthma and Air Quality

We talked with three different people who have asthma about how air quality monitoring helps them in their daily life.

Atmotube PRO air quality monitor

Air pollution inside a car may trigger an asthma attack.

Dallas M.: I am an asthmatic and never had a problem in my old Forester 2006. I sold my old car earlier this year and upgraded to a used Forester 2015 (diesel for greater towing capacity). I found that I would get asthma in the new car and was very disappointed  I couldn’t smell anything wrong in the car but was still concerned fumes were leaking into the cabin from the engine bay or exhaust. The Atmotube air quality monitor proved there was no leak, but there was a surprising high VOC buildup while parked in the closed garage all night (sometimes a couple days) with windows up. The AQS would be in 40s and the VOC around 1.5-2.0. So my new routine is to open the garage to let fresh air in, then open all the car doors and hatch and blow out the polluted air with my electric leaf blower! That brings the AQS up to 80 and VOCs down to 0.33. Not quite as good as the outside air AQS~90 and VOC ~ 0.15 but far better than before, and now no asthma when driving. I’ve also learnt I need to air the car for a few minutes after it has been parked outside (especially in the sun) and to periodically let fresh air in while driving. It seems this model of car is prone to off gassing lots of VOCs.

Levels of toxic compounds can be as much as 10 times higher inside cars than alongside the road.

Wood-burning fireplaces and wood-burning stoves generate indoor and outdoor air pollution with 70% of outdoor wood smoke re-entering the house.

Adrian H.: I also have quite bad asthma. So, I'm just trying to learn more about the air quality in the air directly outside my house and also the air in the surrounding areas. I did notice a huge spike in particulates on Christmas day! I think I have correctly attributed that to some of my neighbours lighting fires in their homes while they were making themselves cosy (there were a few chimneys that were emitting smoke).

Dallas M.: And in winter there are neighbours that like to keep warm with combustion fireplaces. So at these times of the year I assumed the air outside is most likely worse quality than inside. But with the Atmotube sitting on the window ledge I can measure the air quality coming into the bedroom before I go to sleep and then decide if It is better to leave the window open all night.  If there is high fire danger (hot, dry and windy) I will leave the Atmotube on all night on the window ledge to alert if air quality drops below 60.  

Wildfire smoke is 80 percent PM2.5 and also associated with 400 different toxins. Smoke causes irritation and muscle spasms, which lead to wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Mateen S.: I have a few different asthma triggers. Obviously, exercise. The second trigger would be allergies. In addition to asthma, I also have environmental allergies. I have an allergy to dust mites in particular, so when there are dust mites in the room, I have a shortness of breath. The third trigger again would be something like wildfires. And the fourth trigger would be pollution. Los Angeles is quite polluted. When I came up to school in LA from San Diego, I definitely noticed differences in my asthma. <...> I wasn’t aware of portable machines that could test air quality but it would be interesting to track dust mites inside my house. For outdoors, usually I just take a look at the Air Quality Index online. If the Score is to the point where sensitive groups of people shouldn’t go out, I would follow guidelines and wouldn’t actively go out. It’s hard to know because it doesn’t smell smokey in the air.

Wildfire in San Diego County
Wildfire in San Diego County
Post tags
Interested in monitoring indoor air quality and environmental comfort of your space?
Let's chat
Atmocube on the wall