June 1, 2019

Indoor Air Pollutants – Quiet Killers in Your Home

Indoor Air Quality

Most of our lives are spent indoors, where the concentration of air pollutants is much higher than outdoors.

In every home, a variety of gases, particulates, and aerosols can be found in the air. Not all of them are dangerous on their own, however, the combination of them in the air you breathe may have a serious impact on the health, well-being, and productivity of you and your family.

Photo by isaac jarnagin


Radon is a radioactive gas that is tasteless, odorless, and colorless. It is the main cause of lung cancer and leukemia among non-smokers. Radon occurs during the decay of radioactive elements and is released from the soil almost everywhere. It mainly appears through cracks in the walls and floors of basements (especially in earthquake-prone regions, like California), but can also be found in artesian water. As radon is heavier than air, high concentrations of it can be found near the floor of rooms with poor ventilation which poses a great risk to pets and small children, who may not feel its effects.

There is no easy way to detect radon due to its chemical inertness, however, you can buy a radon test kit, put it in your basement, and after a few weeks bring it to a certified lab or professional for measurement.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Almost all living things need oxygen. We all breathe in oxygen and emit carbon dioxide, however it’s no secret that a high concentration of CO22 can be problematic for our health. Fatigue, weakness, headaches, and depression are all symptoms of a dangerous concentration of CO2 and you should immediately air out your home if you experience them, in addition to checking the level of CO2.

There are many ways to measure carbon dioxide levels, but the most effective and sustainable way is to use a device that contains NDIR-based CO2 sensors. NDIR stands for non-dispersive infrared and this technology measures the concentration of CO2 through its effect on the level of infrared light. As the concentration of CO2 increases, the level of infrared light decreases, which the device then detects. This simple and reliable technology allows us to measure CO2 levels with a high degree of accuracy and repeatability.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby

Volatile organic compounds (VOC)

All scents or odors are the results of a high concentration of VOCs. Most natural VOCs are harmless and maybe even pleasant, like the smell of fresh-cut grass or baked bread. But there are also some that are hazardous and can be found in your home: formaldehyde, acetone, toluene, ethanol, benzine series steam, as well as hundreds of others. They are produced by plastic products, solvents, cosmetics, wallpaper, cleaning products, paint and almost anything that has not been produced using natural or environmentally friendly materials. The problem is that hazardous concentrations are often too low for us to detect with our natural senses.

One way to protect yourself is to use a set of devices that contain infrared or MEMS-sensors, which are designed to detect particular VOCs, such as formaldehyde. However, this is not the best option due to their high-cost and cross-sensitivity (an ammonia sensor may also react to ethanol, hydrogen, or isobutane). After all, which specific substance has been released is less important than whether its harmful and we can find its source. This is why a second approach may be better: the use of sensors that detect a grouping of a wide range of VOCs. This method (known as TVOC) is more effective as it includes all harmful compounds rather than focusing on a single one.

Atmotube PRO portable air quality monitor implements the TVOC approach. Each device includes a fully functional weather station and self-calibrated TVOC sensor, which allows you to take measurements in real-time and alert you immediately to harmful changes in air quality.

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