Can visualizing air pollution inside your home change the way you live?
12/22/2018 // Edsel Cook // Views

Out of sight, out of mind. But what if the tiny airborne pollutants inside your home become visible to plain sight? A Science Daily article suggested that homeowners will do anything they can to improve the air quality in their homes if they could see for themselves the reality of indoor air pollution.

The University of Utah (UU) held an experiment on the behaviors of homeowners who were given the ability to identify the quality of air in their home visually. The objective was to increase the awareness of participants with regards to indoor air quality in their living space.

While indoor air pollution is usually lower than its outdoor equivalent, it is very dangerous due to its proximity to people and concentration. Furthermore, it can be worsened by everyday activities such as cooking, dusting, and vacuuming.

High levels of indoor air pollution can lead to health problems for people who spend long amounts of times inside their homes. Young people, older adults, and people living with asthma are very vulnerable to its adverse effects. (Related: Another way to clean your air: Salt lamps purify the air and charge it with healthy negative ions.)

Everyday activities can make the indoor air quality drop like a rock

The UU researchers designed a number of air quality monitors for deployment in six volunteering homes in Salt Lake and Utah counties. The entire system is called MAAV (Measure Air quality, Annotate data streams, and Visualize real-time PM2.5 levels).

A trio of these portable sensors was set up in each participating home for several months during 2017 and 2018. Two of the three sensors were deployed in separate indoor areas of the house that saw heavy use, such as the bedroom and the kitchen. The third one would be sited outside, somewhere around the porch area.


The sensors measured the level of very fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in the air every minute. These air pollutants measured 2.5 microns or less, making them invisible to the human eye.

The monitors constantly sent the latest information they gathered to the MAAV server at the university. The participants could access this important data through tablets provided by the researchers.

An app in the tablet would render the data into a line graph that showed the air pollution levels in the monitored room. Up to an entire month's worth of data could be viewed at any time.

Whenever the participant was cooking food, vacuuming rugs, or doing something that would affect the indoor air quality, they could label that moment for the MAAV server. The homeowner would also be informed through an SMS text message.

Best find out if your home is heavily polluted

The results of their study showed certain trends in the behavior of homeowners once they found out about the indoor air pollution at home. One homeowner traded out her olive oil for less smoky cooking oils.

Another participant used to clean her house when she knew a friend suffering from allergies was coming over. When she learned that dusting and vacuuming scattered the pollutants, she started housecleaning much earlier.

Other homeowners would try to improve air quality by opening their windows to let fresh air into the house. They would also avoid the rooms with higher levels of indoor air pollution.

Furthermore, the activities in question affected air quality in different ways. Cooking, for example, caused different problems compared to vacuuming.

Last but not least, homeowners were shown to act decisively when they became aware of problems with indoor air quality. A man's home is his castle, after all, and a clean castle is much better than Castle Anthrax. can tell you how to protect your home against the dangers of indoor and outdoor air pollution.

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