What's My Indoor Environment Like?
Bob Troia wanted to better understand the risks and the negative health effects caused by poor air quality, the water he drinks and showers with and different types of electromagnetic radiation that surrounds him.
In this talk, Bob shares with us what he did to track his indoor environment and some very subtle and shocking results with simple solutions (i.e. open a window when you sleep to reduce the Co2) to help keep one's indoor environment healthier.
AirPi | Electro smart meter | Rasberry Pi
My name is Bob Troia, and today I’m going to talk a little bit about some experiments I’m running related to tracking and better understanding my indoor environment.
Now with Quantified Self, there’s typically a big focus on understanding our bodies and in order to gain knowledge about our health and wellness. Now that’s great, but I came to the realization that a lot of us pay very little attention to the environment that surrounds us, and I have been just as guilty as everybody else.
My interest was really understanding the risks and the negative health effects caused by things such as like poor air quality, the water we drink and shower with, different types of electromagnetic radiation that the modern world has really just surrounded us with.
So what did I do?
I've been experimenting with a number of sensors and meters to better understand my indoor environment. And for the first part of my experiment, I wanted to analyze the indoor quality within my home.
So how did I do it?
There are a wide selection of meters out there and devices, from industrial grade monitors that cost thousands of dollars, to new products that are coming on the market through startups.
The features can vary widely, and I’m really most interested in the air quality of my home, my bedroom particularly so I went and built my own. There is an open source project called AirPi. It's you buy the components, you put it together yourself, and you connect it to a Raspberry Pi, which is a small microcomputer. It costs about $40 that can then read in the data from all of these sensors.
You can see that I added a number of sensors to this device. One for temperature and humidity. One that measures the atmosphere pressure and can also do temperature. One is specifically for nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, and other air contaminants as well. There’s also sensors on there to measure light levels in my bedroom as well as ambient noise.
I then set this up in my bedroom and started taking a series of continuous measurements. And the chart you’re going to see is a 24 hours snapshot of data within my bedroom, and overall there’s nothing truly remarkable here.
The humidity and pressure trend actually mirrored the outdoor weather conditions for that particular day. You’ll see that there’s a temperature change around 6 AM. I think it might just be a glitch because I can't really figure it out. And the light level readings, you'll see drops throughout the day. Lower levels mean it's brighter, so the sunrise, the sunset, and you can see I watched TV before bed.
And then you can see the microphone volumes; this is spikes which I can attribute mostly to my dog barking. But this is where it gets interesting.
So I share my bedroom with my girlfriend and my dog. Okay, my girlfriend said I can use it. And you know, we have the door closed while we're sleeping, and on the previous slide, we saw humidity and temperature rise through the temperatures through our bodies. But if we look at some of the other sensors, you're going to see that the air quality actually goes down overnight. There's a buildup of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide as we're sleeping and breathing our air. And when we wake up in the morning and open the bedroom door, there's an immediate and noticeable improvement in the air quality in our home.
But I live in New York City, and it's an apartment building that's across the street from a supermarket. So in the morning and the afternoon, there's lots of delivery trucks, and you can see throughout the day when vehicles would be idling out on the street, you would see spikes in it.
So in those previous slides you saw some random data values, and you might have saw millivolts or Ohms and be like what's up with that, those aren't real values, and you're correct.
These are cheap sensors that aren’t really fully calibrated. So while they’re great for giving just general trends about different sensors and different contaminants in the air, there are really more expensive testing equipment to get really accurate data. And there's these sensor datasheets that require you to calibrate the raw data into Ohms and volts, so at this point, I gave up on it.
So next, I want to understand the effects of electromagnetic fields in my home. So this diagram provides and overview of the spectrum of frequencies, so there’s three main categories; low frequencies, radio frequencies, and RF and microwave.
So the big causes of this are things like house wiring, transformers, and appliances and external power lines, whether they're overhead powerlines or underground power lines. And EMS can cause a lot of potential health issues, so elevated exposure especially, so it can range from just headaches and affecting your sleep, to more serious biological issues and even immune issues or cancer.
So I went out and got a few meters. Ones called a tri-field meter. Cost about $150 and an Electro-smart meter, which cost a little over $200. And you can see on the first meter; there's a dotted line that goes to solid at the top. That's kind of the beginning where it's considered being a dangerous level. And I went and diagrammed my whole home, and I started sweeping around my entire home to understand noting like where things are, like appliances are, electrical outlets, light switches, windows, etc. and my readings were actually between 3 and 6mGal, which is considered high. So I started trying to pinpoint and looked at my kitchen, and it had the worst EMF readings mainly due to their internal electronics and motors, whether it's your dishwasher or stove, or even the microwave.
So imagine cooking a meal where you’ve got your crotch up against your stove and the microwave at your head going at the same time and your just getting blasted with EMF it’s not too good for you.
So then in my bedroom, there’s guidelines about really keeping the EMF levels low in your sleeping area. And I had some high levels right where my head was in bed, and I looked behind my bed and realized there was a coaxial cable attached to the wall. And as soon as I unplugged it the EMF reading went down by half.
And then I just decided to move my bed about six inches away from the wall, and then my reading got back down into the proper range.
I was scanning my living room, and one day I noticed this high reading right around my couch and couldn't really figure out what it was because it only happened on the weekends. I did a little more digging in, and research and I knocked on my neighbor's door, and found out that their television set was right behind my couch. So I'm getting blasted by the EMFs coming out of the television, so I need to move my couch.
I then looked at exposure from RF and like Wi-Fi and radiation from my laptop, especially when it’s not plugged in or grounded. And you can see actually when I was streaming video or something on my laptop; you can actually see the meter going back and forth when it’s transmitting data. But no matter what I did, I just could never get my levels overall down to that great you know ideal range.
So I went outside, and started walking around the street in my neighborhood, and everything was about over 7mGal, so there's this elevated level everywhere, and I realized it was from powerlines, street lamps, etc.
So what did I learn?
New York City's a dangerous place; it's not from crime. There’s some simple hacks you can do to understand the effects of EMF and really make a huge impact, like opening and closing doors, moving your furniture around. I think these sensors are cheap, they give you great data on trends, but you need better equipment to get more detailed information. And I think we need to understand to is that exposure’s not constant. It can be intermittent, so you want to have data being recorded to be all day or all week, so you don’t miss those trends.
In terms of what’s next like going into other areas like water quality testing, improving the sensors, understanding indoor light, being able to optimize what time of day and having certain colors in my home. And taking my data and overlaying public datasets if it’s weather or location of cell towers etc.
So that's all the time I have for today. It's been great if you have any questions, comments, feedback feel free to ask and enjoy the rest of the conference.