The canary in the gold mine – early air quality detection

The story of the canary in the gold mine is one that is an important part of British History. Similarly, this expression, once part of an important discovery, can be said as the same thing as early air quality detection. What is the history with the canary and the gold mine? How is it relevant to early air quality detection? Read on more to find out.

The story of the canary in the gold mine

The story of the canary dates back to 1911 and ends in 1986. Canaries were used during this time period to detect carbon monoxide and other toxic gasses before they hurt miners. How were they exactly used? The coal miners listened to the bird’s song and if the birds fell silent, they knew they were in danger to their health and to take action. These canaries were employed in Britain, followed by the United States and Canada. The idea was first credited to John Scott Haldane, also known by a few as “the father of oxygen therapy.” He conducted research on carbon monoxide and came to recommend using birds as an early detector. The canaries was Haldane’s suggested solution because they are vulnerable to airborne poisons. Their bodies are built with an extra air sac, making them get a dose of oxygen while inhaling and another when they exhale. This makes them a useful indicator so miners would get an early warning system.

Why early air quality detection is important

There are numerous health risks that we face in our day-to-day lives. From driving a car, flying in a plane, to walking down a busy street, we are being exposed to environmental pollution. Some risks we must take otherwise it can restrict how we live. Indoor air pollution on the other hand is something that we can improve on. The risk for exposure is high because we spent about 90 percent of our time indoors. These risks are much more serious for groups like children, elderly, and citizens affected from respiratory or cardiovascular diseases. Exposure can lead to damage of the central nervous system, affecting the learning or behavioral patterns of children. Air pollution can also significantly impact mental health, impacting productivity, risk of depression and personality disorders.

What sources of air pollution are affecting your indoor health? Different air pollutants come from various factors that come from many activities in the home. Many materials that are combustible at home produce air pollutants. These sources can come from one of the many following:

  • Oil
  • Gas
  • Kerosene
  • Coal
  • Wood
  • Tobacco products
  • Products for household cleaning and maintenance
  • Heating, cooling, and humidification services
  • Outdoor sources like radons, pesticides, and outdoor air pollution

The sources found in our homes are labeled into four categories of indoor air pollution sources by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They are known as the following: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), biological pollutants, combustion byproducts, and legacy pollutants. The list of common air pollutants include the following from the categories named above:

  1. Asbestos – found in a variety of construction materials (insulation, roofing shingles)
  2. Carbon Monoxide – released when kerosene lamps and gas heaters are used
  3. Nitrogen Dioxide – burning of fuel
  4. Lead – metal processing and burning of leaded fuel
  5. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – originating from many common household products (paint, cleaners, disinfectants, air fresheners)

These pollutants can affect our health and also the comfort of living indoors. Our lifestyle and activities can decrease our health, productivity, and living environment. Taking measures to identify air quality problems is one step in inducing healthy living spaces.

What is good air quality?

Good air quality can be best described by an air quality index (AQI) that measures how polluted the air is. Breeze Technologies measures indoor pollutants using an air quality sensor based on several key indicators. The air quality sensors take into consideration three parameters: carbon dioxide, indoor climate, and volatile organic compounds. Specific AQI ratings according to how much concentration (ppm) means different values.

Temperature and humidity are important indoor climate factors also to be measured. High temperature and humidity have been found to increase the growth of mold, one factor that can cause Sick Building Syndrome. Based on Breeze Technologies’ overall indoor air quality index (IAQI), ratings for CO2 should be between 0 – 1000 ppm so that the air inside remains at harmless levels.

How and when to check indoor air quality in your home

Today, without the use of canaries, we are able to have precise information and better reporting of air quality. The problem is however, not many seem to be aware of the serious effects on our health. One way to become a better advocate of clean air is to be observant and ask yourself: Is there someplace or something in your home that is causing symptoms? What has changed in my home that is causing me to feel bad? You can try to leave your home for a few weeks to see if the symptoms go away. If it is still difficult to trace the origins of the problem, getting an air quality evaluation is the next step. This can involve finding an air quality specialist, or even investing in an air quality sensor. These solutions can help understand what air pollutants exist in your home. Finding a consultant will help you assess a broad assessment, then finding a specialist for dealing with specific problems. Using an air quality sensor will help identify the sources of air pollution, such as usage of gas stoves or increasing the frequency of ventilation times. Breeze Technologies provides a cost-effective solution with air quality sensors. They monitor common air pollutants as well as other factors that may affect indoor health. Contact us today to learn more about protecting your indoor health!