Air pollution doesn’t just affect us outdoors, and the danger of Coronavirus is particularly acute in enclosed spaces. We asked the experts for some insight into the game-changing uHoo device and its Airborne Virus Index
Most of us understand the dangers of air pollution, but few of us realise that indoor air pollution is equally dangerous to long-term health.
Factors such as chemical pollution from particulates, levels of gasses, temperature, odours and biological contaminants can all affect health and wellbeing.
And now, of course, there is another crucial measure of indoor air quality (IAQ) – levels of viral contamination.
Already one of the world’s favourite indoor air quality monitors, uHoo has now developed the new Airborne Virus Index – a real game-changer that gives you real-time analysis of the air quality and its likelihood to support or impede the survival and spread of viruses.
Amazingly practical and superbly well timed, the new Airborne Virus Index is available in both uHoo ‘LITE’ and uHoo ‘PRO’ monitors.
With applications in homes, workplaces, medical facilities and care homes among other locations, uHoo will tell you immediately if the air quality in your home or office is so poor that it is helping viruses survive, spread and infect everyone nearby – and more to the point, the associated app helps you to plan the remedial action you should take.
What is the uHoo Airborne Virus Index?
The Airborne Virus Index is based on an ingenious algorithm which evaluates the key components of air quality to determine to what extent the air favours or impedes the survival of viruses
Viruses may range from Corona viruses such as SARS/Covid-19 to other more common viruses associated with colds, ‘flu, bronchial infections, chicken pox, rubella, mumps and measles etc.
The Index provides a score from 1 to 10 where 1 is the best score and 10 is the worst, a condition virtually promoting the survival and spread of viruses.
Does particle pollution support the spread of viruses?
Yes, definitely. Very small particulates can stay suspended in the air for several hours and carry viruses which may have been ejected on someone’s breath, cough or sneeze.
How can air quality data be helpful in evaluating the risk of viral infection?
Air quality information in real time can tell you very quickly if the composition and physical state of the indoor air is deteriorating in favour of the survival of viruses. The more the air quality deteriorates in favour of viruses, the more urgent it becomes to take action to restore good air quality.
How else does air pollution affect health?
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of air in the indoor environment within a building and how it relates to the occupants’ physical and psychological health, comfort and productivity.
A more technical definition of IAQ is related to how well indoor air satisfies the three basic requirements for human occupancy: thermal acceptability, the maintenance of normal concentrations of respiratory gases, dilution and removal of contaminants to levels below health or odour discomfort thresholds.
Adults take 17,000-23,000 breaths per day – small children, even more – for example, infants under 2 months old take around 80,000 breaths per day – and every one of them is an opportunity for pollutants to invade the body.
Around 40,000 UK deaths annually are linked to air pollution.
We spend over 90 percent of our time indoors whether at home, at work, in the pub, leisure centre or shopping.
Studies indicate that air pollution adversely affects the function of lungs, heart, brain and other vital organs and is linked to birth defects, respiratory weakness, strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer’s and dementia diseases.
“Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution” (February 2016)
Who is most affected by indoor air pollution?
Infants and young children, the sick – particularly those with respiratory disorders such as asthma, rhinitis and COPD; those with allergies, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly with age-related diseases.
Joint reports by the Royal College of Physicians and The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health indicate that air pollution causes long-term damage to lungs, heart and brain. Air pollution can adversely affect children’s behaviour and greatly impair their mental and physical development.
“The Inside Story: Health effects of Indoor Air Quality on Children and Young People” (January 2020)
Can indoor air be more polluted than outdoor?
Yes, most definitely.
In most houses, polluted outdoor air enters the house unfiltered where it is further contaminated by indoor pollutants. In consequence indoor air can be 5-10 times more polluted than outdoor air.
In fact, the concentrations of 20 toxic compounds known to be related to cancer and/or birth defects are likely to be 200-500* times greater indoors than outdoors.
The most prevalent indoor pollutants are:
• Microscopic airborne particles and aerosols (“particulates”)
• Volatile organic compounds (a plethora of harmful chemicals)
• Nitrogen dioxide
• Carbon dioxide
*Key References: Dr. Julie Riggs, and IAQUK
What are the sources of indoor particulates?
Particulate matter (PM) is suspended droplets and inhalable solid particles found in the air, in dust, or on surfaces. PM is usually classified into three categories. These are grouped by the maximum diameter in micrometres: inhalable particles (PM10), fine particles (PM2.5), and ultrafine particles which have a diameter of less than 0.1 micrometre
Sources of particulates found indoors include the ingress of polluted outdoor air, smoking, cooking, burning (fires, stoves, candles, and incense), cleaning activities and people.
Carpets are notorious sources of particulates and pathogens and dust mites.
The worst image is of a baby crawling across what appears to be a snuggly shaggy carpet!
Cooking is a primary source of particulates (e.g. microscopic particles from frying, roasting, grilling and toasting). Gas cookers and ovens may also emit nitrogen dioxide and if badly maintained, and even deadly carbon dioxide.
How can you improve indoor air quality?
There are many aspects to this.
- Open doors and windows for 2- 3 minutes allowing fresh air to flush through the building. It’s usually the fastest way to improve air quality. [Most people think that it will cause a big drop or rise in air temperature. That’s true but it will not be long enough to significantly change the temperature of everything in the building – walls, floors, ceilings, furniture, fittings etc. As soon as the doors and windows are closed, the area will resume closely to its previous temperature]
- Use the kitchen air-extractor or cooker hood filter on full power whilst cooking and for a further 10 minutes afterwards. This will remove a very large proportion of cooking-generated particulates.
- Use environmentally friendly household cleaning products which are promoted for their composition with non-toxic ingredients.
- Use a good quality electric indoor air purifier – one which not only removes particulates but also destroys pathogens (harmful viruses and bacteria) and absorbs gases such as nitrogen dioxide
- Do not burn candles of any description. They are notorious for generating high levels of particulates.
- Avoid using air fresheners, scented oil burners and incense burners all of which can emit particulates and volatile organic compounds
- Avoid using open fires which emit particulates and harmful gases.
- Avoid using paints and varnishes which contain volatile organic compounds.
What are the ideal levels of temperature, humidity, CO2, NO2 and PM index?
- Temperature – 19°-24°C according to personal preference
- Relative Humidity – 50% (and within the range of 40-60%)
- Carbon Dioxide – below 800 parts per million (ppm)
- Nitrogen Dioxide – below 53 parts per billion (ppb)
- Particulate Matter – below 15μ/m³ PM2.5 (micrograms per cubic metre)
How does uHoo help you maintain a healthy indoor environment?
uHoo makes the invisible, visible!
It shows you the composition and state of the air you’re breathing – for example, are there are any pollutants in it and, if so, at what concentrations?
Together with the hints and tips on the uHoo app, you become empowered with the knowledge to track down the source of pollution and take action to remove it or reduce it.
Having this ability is especially important in households where one or more occupants may be suffering from allergies and respiratory disorders. For those persons, uHoo is a real boon as it forewarns of deteriorating conditions enabling early intervention to avoid e.g. asthmatic attacks.
What are the differences between uHoo “LITE” and uHoo “PRO”?
The difference is in the type of account and the way data is accessed and presented.
A “LITE” account is:
- Designed for home use and for small businesses
- Free, and will accommodate up to 10 monitors. Data is presented on the account holder’s smartphone or tablet, using the “uHoo” app. The account holder can share the data with an infinite number of people.
For example, a play school can share air quality data with parents so they can see what the children are breathing.
A “PRO” account is designed for professionals who want:
- To equip a whole building and have a comprehensive ability to view and analyse IAQ data through uHoo’s dashboard on a PC or laptop and connect the data output to a building management system to help control the heating and ventilation system.
- To accommodate an infinite number of uHoo monitors and nominees to share the data.
A “PRO” accounts requires an annual subscription per monitor.