CHOICE membership

Air Quality Measurement and Monitoring

Are there any Choice Review materials on services and/or products for air quality assessment in the family home? E.g. particulate, dust, CO2, formaldehyde, fungal spores etc.
Given the extent of allergens, respiratory and other issues in the modern home I’m quite surprised at the lack of services and or products that are available which can be relied on with a high level of confidence.

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Welcome to the community @pmack,

Not that I could identify. There are interspersed comments in some specific product reviews and buying guides, but related to product performance not measuring or assessing.

There are many measurement devices on the market, but other than claimed specification and manufacturer reputation it seems there isn’t anything to direct a consumer to one or another beyond the sales and marketing materials.

A google of ‘air quality assessment measurement device reviews’ returns some hits that should be interesting if not informative, as well as some US centric ‘reviews’.

Since there is a topic about air purifiers this may be a product area Choice could be interested in for future work, so I’ll tag it with ‘request a test’.

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Thanks for the prompt reply. It seems to me air purifiers are only needed if there is a problem. Even then they may not be the solution. You can’t fix what you can’t measure :slight_smile:
Regards and thanks. I’ll hunt around. I’m not confident after looking at a lot of Random reviews. It may be that none of the householder products work.

Hi @pmack & welcome.

What is it specifically you want to do? Is there a reason for your interest?

I would argue that is not strictly true. An analogy is that we can’t measure the cleanliness of our clothes, but trust that washing machines and washing detergents work. In the same way, just because we can’t measure air quality doesn’t mean that (at least some) air purifiers don’t work.

Perhaps if you were more specific on your situation and needs, others more technical than I could offer assistance.

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Hi @pmack, welcome to Choice Community.

There are consultants who will carry out independent air quality testing within a home or anywhere else one wishes to know and pay for testing.

These consultants in all major cities with specialise testing equipment which has higher level of accuracy and detection limits than any domestic style testing equipment. The consultant’s testing equipment will also provide a greater level of accuracy.

Also, chose a consultant rather than say a business selling a particular product to manage air quality. A consultant will be independent, where a business onselling devices will have potentially a vested interest in the results.

Consultants can be readily found by carrying out an internet search. When commissioning a consultant, ask for the cost (the cost won’t be necessarily cheap) and also evidence that their testing equipment is calibrated by a recognised laboratory (e.g. NATA). Also ask what it tested and how the results will be presented (e.g. report or test certificate).

Edit: Also check if they are a member of:

https://www.casanz.org.au/

CASANZ also has a consultant’s directory to help steer one in the right direction.

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Testing air quality for VOC and particulates is in no way analogous to testing washed clothes. You don’t ingest clothes but you inhale air directly into the lung. One is trivial the other is potentially life threatening. Mine was a very serious request.

Thank you for your response. Is it for you that it could be potentially life threatening??

If you provide more information as per my earlier suggestion to you perhaps you might get a more relevant response.

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An alternative might be to ask what is required to measure air quality in the family home?

A simple answer is that it requires a range of specialised scientific instruments, and trained operators to collect samples. Typically the samples need to be taken away for remote analysis.

There are no carry in the pocket instruments that are designed to measure air quality to recognised standards. There are a number of portable instruments that can measure specific gases or types of gases. Identifying different gases and the concentrations requires expensive laboratory analysis. For particulates classification according to source is a combination of visual (microscopes) and chemical analysis. Physical counts, dry weight measurement and selective filters all form part of the methods used.

Assuming there are a number of portable calibrated instruments that can perform some measurements.

  • Are those devices affordable for the average home owner?
  • Is the level of complexity and expertise required for a review and test within the capabilities of Choice’s laboratory?

From workplace experience air quality measurement against recognised standards has always been provided by external service providers. NATA registered and accredited for the task.

Consider:
Depending on where each of us live, the airborne environment around and inside our homes contains a mixture of natural and human caused substances. At present our immediate dust load is 95+% pollen dusts from the winter flowering acacias. And after mowing, also a mixture of natural dust, grass pollens, and all manner of soil fungi, bacteria, bits of floating skippy poo and other unknowns. A portion of which ultimately winds up coming into the house.

I’m not intent on belittling the concerns. I often wear a P2 face mask to mow. I’d suggest that to be meaningful, we need more than a simplistic measure. We do need to know what it is that we have measured, to understand if it has any potential for harm. Natural country air is not as many imagine pure, clean, or free of natural dust, pollens, bacteria, plant volatiles etc. At times it positively stinks. A proper understanding requires very much a specialised laboratory. As @phb suggested searching on line for ‘residential air quality measurement services’ is a good place to start if you are concerned about particular contaminants in your home.

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There are to my knowledge no home testing kits that would render good results (I asked my Refrig and AC Tradesman Cousin). You can hire services that will undertake air quality assessments in your home over a period that you request. They tend to be used for short periods but regular testing is also able to be arranged. For long term testing the cost is likely prohibitive but say a short term 1 day to a week’s collection and testing might be affordable, this result will only be relevant for the conditions at the time eg weather, season, and the effect this has on household usage eg windows open or shut, aircon on or not.

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There are some 8+ parameter monitoring ‘equipment’ available for purchase online (mainly overseas sites) for less than $100. I would be very dubious about any results from such equipment…and it may result in the wrong results which may make someone worry for nothing.

The scientific and reputable test equipment is many multiples of this and usually test a limited number of parameters, are calibrated and correlated to air temp, pressure etc.

The online type ones could be dangerous in the wrong hands, especially if they overestimate values and one is checking say air quality as a result of emission levels from a nearby factory/business.

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Great answer. Just what I was looking for. There are a lot of products in this space and this confirms the feeling I got from the dubious reviews and manufacturer claims. I live on the coast but spent a lot of time on bushfire duties last summer. I was really keen to find a product to use in the home after that experience. Hopefully Choice does a review one day.

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Sorry my brackets are probably not in the best place but after them I continued “that would render good results” so I have amended the post to make this more obvious to a reader. My bad and glad you made me realise it.

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I have no affiliation with this company, but do buy an occasional bit of equipment from them, and receive their marketing emails. They have some info that may be useful reading if you are still looking for a monitoring device.

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Now that COVID is finally recognised as being spread via airborne transmission and that improving ventilation is crucial to reducing risk (even if vaccinated), I’ve been thinking of getting a CO2 monitor but there are so many online and I don’t know how to assess their quality.

There’s no point buying one if it doesn’t actually do what it’s meant to do.

I want one that I can use in my home but can also take out with me so that I can monitor the CO2 levels of the shops, offices, restaurants, venues etc that I go to and know when the CO2 level is high and it’s time to leave!!

I also don’t want to be paying a fortune.

It would seem timely for Choice to review CO2 monitors.

In the meantime, does anyone have any recommendations?

Cheers

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Its not CO2 (although it can be a huge issue for asthmatics) so much as some of the other atmospheric pollutants (PM2.5, PM10, NO2 for example) you need to be worrying about. I was in a facebook group (briefly) during the bushfires of 2019/2020, they were based in Canberra and often had recommendations for personal monitors. Alas I am unable to recall the name of the group!!

Its a good suggestion for a test, though :slight_smile:

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What’s the relationship between CO2 and Covid that you are relying on? It’s not something the medical experts have commented on.

Would greater circulation of air also be likely to increase the spread of airborn contaminants further?

Wearing a mask in public places has been the go to.
There is a separate Choice discussion on CO2 monitors. They are not readily available at low cost.

Refer

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Is this what you had in mind?

The chemists relied on a simple fact already put to use by other researchers more than a decade ago: Infectious people exhale airborne viruses at the same time as they exhale carbon dioxide. That means CO2 can serve as a “proxy” for the number of viruses in the air.

The obvious problem I see with this is the system will be prone to false positives:

  • For example if you used such a monitor in 2018 and it reported very high CO2 it would be 100% wrong about the amount of COVID in the air.
  • You could be wasting much time getting out of shops that have plenty of people and no COVID.
  • You will be raising your anxiety and possible thinking you are safer by watching your monitor when you are not.

In addition if there is COVID in the air you have breathed it by the time your monitor tells you the CO2 is high. This is a scientific curiosity not a practical method of staying safe.

Rather than spend your money and concern over such a gadget you would be better off getting the jab ASAP and wearing a mask properly when you go shopping.

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Hi Mark,

Thanks for responding.

Much has changed over the past year with regard to our understanding of respiratory infectious diseases transmission. I am actually an Infectious Diseases RN MPH and I can assure that there has been much discussion and recognition by medical experts regarding the importance of monitoring CO2 levels in enclosed spaces.

CO2 is a practical proxy of risk for airborne diseases such as COVID because the background (ambient) CO2 level is almost stable and indoor excess CO2 is usually only from human breathing. Without good ventilation the CO2 level increases reflecting a potentially higher concentration of virus in the air, thereby making it a greater risk (as viral containing aerosols and CO2 are co-exhaled by those infected)

There is great support within the Public Health community for measurements of indoor CO2 concentrations by low-cost CO2 sensors because they can often be good indicators of infection risk, can alert people for the need to improve ventilation by simple measures such as opening windows & doors and they’re suitable for mass deployment.

Greater ventilation ensures CO2 and potential/possible viral particles ‘blow’ out of an enclosed space and are replaced with ‘clean’ air from outside.

My issue is that there are now so many CO2 monitors available but there is nothing to ensure quality, that they are calibrated, or that their measurements are actually ‘true’.

They are a really important tool for airborne infectious diseases and I want to purchase one but I want one that doesn’t cost a fortune and that is accurate and works!

Masks of course, are vital - as is vaccination!

Cheers

Hi,

Thank you.

Yes, I’m aware of the research and the applications for CO2 monitors - and their limitations.

As a health professional, I want one so that I can monitor CO2 levels in a variety of settings (as stated) but I also want one for consulting rooms so that I can ensure appropriate action is promptly taken to improve ventilation if CO2 levels are starting to increase.

They are one of several tools to reduce airborne infectious disease transmission and obviously masks and vaccination are pivotal.

I’m after recommendations of monitors that provide accurate readings (true and calibrated) and that don’t cost a fortune.

Cheers

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I moved your topic into this related one about air quality measurement devices as it makes a number of germane points re Choice testing.

There are a number of product categories Choice does not have the instrumentation and perhaps the expertise to adequately test in house. For some categories testing gets outsourced but that is usually quite expensive so Choice focuses on the products that are broadly ‘consumer products’. Those looking for specialised devices may best seek specialist sources, and for instrumentation, products that are tested to meet related standards by certifying labs.

CO2 sensors remain expensive, not to be confused with CO sensors, and still seem more in the realm of medical-industrial buyers rather than products targeting markets dominated by individual consumers. A search for CO2 sensors returned products from $360 to $1,000 while CO products started at $45 but the search engines seem not to well differentiate them since both match on ‘CO’, so it can be a slog wading through the returns. I don’t claim that is exhaustive, just indicative.

All that being written, Choice is able to conduct testing funded by industry as well as by memberships and donations.

Perhaps @ChrisBarnes could provide deeper insights?

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