The ongoing viability of the CO2 monitor

There are two ways of marketing CO2 monitors: one focuses on reducing COVID transmission risk; and the other, tracking effective ventilation.

One centres on sickness, the other, health.

To be clear, CO2 monitors do both: measuring the buildup of CO2 in an enclosed indicates the amount of rebreathed air in a space (higher risk of COVID transmission), and whether there is adequate ventilation (exchange clean air for stale).

Context is everything, in a COVID-ridden environment, suppliers and producers of CO2 monitoring solutions are focussing on the pain point of reducing the risk of COVID transmission; that doesn’t mean that that is all that they do.

But as the pandemic becomes endemic - which it is expected after Omicron – are CO2 monitors still relevant or will they end up in the drawer of obsolete devices and cables?

The narrative around CO2 monitoring may currently be about virus transmission, but in reality, CO2 monitoring is about HEALTH; and about how monitoring air health can improve the health of the people sharing that air.

Many other viruses – already endemic - are also airborne; (some in the form of droplets, some in the form of aerosols):

  • Influenza (hello Winter)

  • Pertussis (whooping cough)

  • RSV (remember our recent outbreak?)

  • Measles

  • Chicken Pox

The build-up of C02 and ventilation performance impacts the spread of these illnesses as well. Which, when monitored and managed, means that less people get sick.

Sickness in students and pupils is a real issue; not only does it affect learning outcomes, it leads to superspreader events primarily due to classrooms, schools and lecture halls being more densely populated than most other enclosed spaces. Viruses spread quickly amongst learners and then infect families and then workplaces.

But classrooms and lecture halls are not the only vulnerable enclosed spaces; a Harvard study of more than 3,000 workers showed that sick leave increased by 53 percent among employees in poorly ventilated areas.

a Harvard study of more than 3,000 workers showed that sick leave increased by 53 percent among employees in poorly ventilated areas.

What is the cost of all this sickness? The same Harvard Study calculated the cost to business of sick leave attributable to ventilation:

“These findings suggest that net savings of USD400 (NZD592.15) per employee per year may be obtained with [effective] ventilation.”

And how do we measure effective ventilation? The good old CO2 monitor.

Mitigating the spread of viruses is not the only health benefit of investing in a CO2 monitor, brain clarity and focus is greatly impacted by the build-up of CO2 in an enclosed space. In Designing Quality Learning Spaces, The NZ Ministry of Education cites low productivity, headaches, poor concentration, restlessness, nausea, and drowsiness as direct outcomes of poor ventilation. Teachers using COVIDCare have reported the same findings: after being alerted to CO2 buildup and implementing ventilation strategies air quality and student focus and engagement improved.

Before CO2 monitoring, the “after lunch slump” had been attributed to big lunches. Insight into data now indicates that your body slowing down in order to digest your lunch has very little to do with 2pm drowsiness and low productivity and that CO2 build up is the culprit: occupied, enclosed spaces reach high levels of CO2 from 2pm, after a long morning of room occupation and shared breath.

You don’t know what you don’t know... but monitoring, tracking and gaining valuable insight puts you on the map. At the very least, you know what you’re working with.

COVID-19 is a virus that has simultaneously compromised our health, and shed light on what greatly impacts our health.

Air health is about to become an integral piece of the holistic health puzzle. And we’ve taken it for granted for far too long. Not convinced? Try this:

"In a typical shared indoor space, 1–5% of the air you breathe has recently been exhaled by someone else. Imagine if every meal you ate included food previously chewed by someone else." – NIWA air quality scientist Dr Ian Longley

That changes everything.

CO2 monitors are not one hit COVID wonders; they are about health. Just as we track our food, our steps, our sleep and our exercise, we should be tracking our air; the most vital thing we need to ingest to survive.

They should be your most fundamental health and fitness tracker. They are also the entry point to a new portal of health tech.

Tether, care for your air.