Hand-held CO2 monitors could improve school air quality
medwireNews: A new hand-held sensor may be the answer to improving air quality in schools, say researchers.
"Poor air quality in school classrooms is a growing concern," said Jack Driscoll (PID Analyzers, LLC, Sandwich, Massachusetts, USA) in a press statement. It is important to address this problem as over exposure to carbon dioxide (CO2) can result in excessive drowsiness, inattentiveness, and in the worst cases hypercapnia."
Driscoll explained: "Many school districts [in the USA] are in the midst of budget crunches that have delayed construction of new facilities. As a result, school classrooms are getting more crowded, with occupancy levels as high as one person for every 40 square feet. The average office worker has about 140 square feet of space."
Even if school classrooms are new, this may not solve the problem, says the team, as energy conservation can cause problems too, meaning that heating and air-conditioning systems may not be exchanging the air as often as they could be.
For example, in the past, the typical number of air exchanges in a school classroom was in the range of four to six per hour, whereas a more modern "energy efficient" classroom may only have one to two air exchanges per hour.
The new "dual-beam" CO2 sensor is simpler to use and less expensive than existing sensors. It is battery operated and can log up to 450 hours (around 3 weeks) of data. It is also more stable than "single-beam" sensors. In addition, it only requires one to two calibrations per year to retain its accuracy, as opposed to the weekly calibrations required by currently used sensors.
Presenting data about the new sensor at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, Driscoll emphasized that if abnormally high levels of CO2 are recorded by the sensor then the solution is simple, potentially involving replacement of air filters or adjustment of blower speed in the heating and air conditioning system of the classroom.
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By Helen Albert, medwireNews Reporter