Thursday, December 1, 2016

What’s in the dust in our homes and workplaces??

What’s in the dust in our homes and workplaces??

On the average, people living in developed countries spend roughly 90% of their time indoors, either in their homes or at their indoor places of work.  So what we may be breathing indoors should be a major concern to all of us.  We hear a lot about outdoor pollution, from industrial sources, cars, trucks and heavy equipment and estimates are that about 60% of outdoor pollution levels make their way indoors.  This fact alone should be sufficient to make more people aware that indoor air quality is crucial to our overall health and well-being.
But what about the “stuff” we bring into our homes, the cleaning agents, furniture, clothing, bedding, even some of the materials used to construct our homes and places of work? As it turns out, many of these products and materials generate dust and particles that get deposited within indoor spaces and may spend much of their lifetime suspended in the air that we breathe.  So the question arises as to what’s in the dust and particles that accumulate indoors and is it bad for us.

To address this issue and concern, Ami Zota of the Milliken School of Public Health at George Washington University led a team of researchers to begin to answer these questions.  Hundreds of dust and particle samples obtained from indoor spaces (mostly homes) over the last 16 years and used in other studies were analyzed for hazardous chemicals they might contain.  When the dust had cleared in this study, so to speak, the research team had identified 35 chemicals that were present and that have been associated with adverse health outcomes “including reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, cognitive and behavioral impairment in children, cancer, asthma, immune dysfunction, and chronic disease.” 
The results of this study reinforce the need to monitor the dust and particles that may be present in our indoor spaces so that preventive and corrective measures can be put in place to minimize and eliminate unnecessary and harmful exposures.  The full report can be found here --  

Dave Litton
Senior Research Scientist

Airviz, Inc.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Speck Performs Well in Independent Testing

Speck Performs Well in Independent Testing
Researchers at the Center for Air Resources Engineering and Science at Clarkson University recently evaluated the Speck sensor along with three other low-cost PM sensors at their laboratory in Potsdam, NY.  In the testing, the four low-cost PM sensors were exposed to Arizona Test Dust (ATD) and particles from cigarette smoke (CS), and their responses compared to the responses of more complex laboratory PM measurement instrumentation.  These two particle sources represent extremes in particle sizes with ATD being dominated by large particles and CS being dominated by fine particles.  Although all four low-cost PM sensors showed variations in their ability to correctly characterize the number concentrations of the two test particles, the results of PM mass measurements were much more convincing. For PM mass measurements, results of the tests showed that the Speck sensor was the only one to consistently yield PM mass concentrations in agreement with the laboratory instrument data for both sources of PM with consistent coefficients of regression, R2, of 0.92 for cigarette smoke and 0.96 for Arizona Test Dust. The other low-cost PM monitors showed varied responses to the two types of test particles and, generally, lower or inconsistent R2 values.  These results demonstrate the Speck’s ability to reliably indicate PM mass concentrations for a wide spectrum of particle sizes and potential sources.  The full test results can be found in the following publication -  

Dave Litton

Focus on Ozone

Focus on Ozone

Ozone comes in basically two forms – the good and the bad. Good ozone is the ozone formed in the stratosphere that forms a protective layer to block out harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth’s surface. We have all heard of the ozone hole created primarily by excess chlorofluorocarbons, or CFC’s, that deplete the stratospheric ozone and let the harmful ultraviolet rays reach the Earth’s surface. But ozone has another face, the bad ozone, that is present in our atmosphere in the air we breathe.

This ozone is formed from the reaction of oxides of nitrogen with volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s, in the presence of sunlight. The optimum conditions for the formation of ground-level, bad ozone occur when the air temperatures are in the 80’s and 90’s and the winds are calm.

Ozone is one gas that is known to make respiratory problems, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), worse and exposure to ozone tends to affect young children and senior citizens the most. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors ozone levels and it is one gas used to calculate the Air Quality Index, or AQI. When atmospheric ozone is at a concentration of 54 ppb (parts per billion) or lower, the AQI is 50 or less and the air quality is said to be good. But as the ozone concentration increases to values greater than 70 ppb, its effects begin to be felt by some persons who may have existing health problems such as asthma or COPD. At much higher levels, ozone action days may be proclaimed which means that the outdoor ozone concentrations are high enough to affect many more people and people are generally told to stay indoors to avoid health problems. A short synopsis of ozone can be found on the website below that is maintained by the EPA.

Considerable more detail about the health problems associated with ozone can be found on the following website dedicated to ozone awareness.

We all know that if ozone is present in the atmosphere outside our homes and offices, then some of this ozone may make its way indoors adding to indoor air pollution. But in an attempt to clean the indoor air of gaseous pollutants, many people turn to ozone generators that are said to remove contaminants and pollutants from the indoor air. The bottom line is that these ozone air cleaners create ozone and that the ozone created may make your indoor air more hazardous to breathe. The problem is potentially severe, so much so that the EPA has dedicated a website about the hazards of ozone air cleaners. It can be found at the link below and is well worth the read since it also contains some basics about reducing indoor air pollution for a healthier lifestyle. quality-iaq/ozone- generators-are- sold-air- cleaners

Senior Scientist, Airviz Inc.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

NYU Health of the Air

A tool created as a collaboration between NYU's Marron Institute of Urban Management and the American Thoracic Society (ATS) exposes annual health impacts for air pollution concentrations that exceed standards. The tool is called Health of the Air and can be found here:

Speck and CREATE Lab are located in Pittsburgh, PA, so that's exactly what we searched for here. You can type your city name or zip code to see a report from your area.

Health of the Air displays 3 screens of results based on ATS standards- the first are local impacts, second are ozone standards across the country, and third lists the cities that would benefit the most from moving to ATS standards.

1. Local Impacts: Pittsburgh, PA

Immediate results for Pittsburgh yield that we are not meeting EPA standards for particle pollution or ozone. In terms of particle pollution (which is what the Speck measures) in Pittsburgh, ATS has estimated 197/285 deaths last year. Further, a whopping 331 incidents of heart attack, chronic bronchitis, hospital admissions (cardiovascular and respiratory), and emergency department visits (respiratory) were estimated. Come on, people!

2. Ozone Standards: A Look Around the Country

Note here that Pittsburgh is in the orange / does not meet EPA standards area at the southwest corner of PA. Ugh.

3. Which cities would gain the most from moving to ATS standards? Avoidable Deaths

Pittsburgh ranks #3 on the overall list! Avoidable deaths is an opportunity for change. Giving community members access to free tools such as Health of the Air is the first step in promoting fluency in data analysis and influencing positive change.

InSPECKtion Series: Specks traveling from Florida to Peru!

Thanks to Denis for some wonderful comments about Speck Sensor! We love having empowered customers. :)

Dear SPECK team,

You have made me one happy camper ! I found your low cost, air quality monitor (the SPECK sensor), to help resolve a health issue that was bothering me for years. 

I was having problems with allergies and asthma in South America. I travel between Florida and Lima, Peru every 6 months. In my travels to Peru I've been having problems breathing at night, not being sure about the causes. I suspected possible air contamination (pollution), and since we live with 2 poodles, dog allergies. I read up about your air quality monitor and decided to purchase the SPECK sensor before my next trip to Peru. In Florida the readings were all good to start with (12-18ug/m3), but then I started upgrading my central A/C filters from Merv 4 to Merv 7 and noticed the improvement in air quality indoors (8-12 ug/m3). Next I'm going to try a Merv 13 filter to see if it's worth the additional cost. I also noticed spikes in the readings whenever I used underarm sprays, was cooking, or burning incense. I no longer burn incense. The SPECK sensor measures the air particles down to PM 2.5 microns. Those are the worst air particles because much of it is absorbed into the lungs. The WHO and EPA set the acceptable levels of air quality of 25 ug/m3 average in 24 hours. So I was happy in Florida and even thou the weather was cool and the humidity high (the same conditions I had in Peru), I did not suffer any breathing issues at night. I even shut off the a/c for a week and left the windows open and still didn't have any problems.

In Peru it was a different story. As soon as I got to Peru I plugged in the SPECK sensor and it starting reading above 50 on average and at times it jumped to 70 ug/m3, almost 3 times the EPA’s acceptable levels ! I just so happened to bring a Merv 13 air filter with me and used it on the back of a cheap floor fan I purchased locally. With my bedroom doors and windows shut (we have no a/c in Lima) it brought those hi levels down to around 20 within an hour.  It has been 5 months already and I am still free of allergies and asthma problems. All I can say is hallelujah ! NOTE: Imagine if I brought a HEPA filter with me instead.

Another reason I bought the SPECK sensor was because of the Dashboard database that keeps your data in the form of graphs on the internet.  I am able to compare the air quality hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly. It allows me to see the graph representations between Florida and Peru. It also allows you to see the data in different measurements, and also records the temperature, which was a nice bonus!

Here are some of the pluses I have noted about the SPECK sensor since I purchased the product back in October 2015:

Std. USB wall charger w/variable power sources(120-240V) NOTE: the US uses 120v, Peru uses 240v
6 foot flexible USB to microusb cable
Connects to laptop, smartphone or tablet for additional portability
Also connects to any other USB adaptor even the USB(cigarette lighter) auto charger
Touch screen display and brightness controls are easy to use and helpful
Uploads to cloud(WiFi) - Dashboard displays multiple graphic charts
Can also download data to laptop
Speck app (Android) displays local results including other cities
Google Chrome application
Esthetic unit in multiple colors - very portable
Graphic LCD displays for last hour and 12 hours
Particle Matter count in microns and per litre
Product description, details, specifications, & brochure well done
Ease of use - air quality levels w/color codes
Memory can store data for long periods, then uploaded to Dashboard 
Measures temperature as seen from the on-line,in cloud, data

I don't know what more I can add of this excellent air quality monitor. It is small, portable, affordable, efficient, effective, and has helped me resolve an important issue in my life concerning my health.

I am constantly learning about other issues that could effect the air quality where I travel, where I sleep, and where I live. What more can one ask for. It's an excellent tool for the times we live in. 

I also believe that young kids with growing lungs, people with low immune systems, and the elderly need to be aware of the air quality indoors; for it is well know that the air quality indoors is often worse than the air quality outdoors, and for that I recommend the SPECK sensor. 

Denis K.


Friday, May 20, 2016

How does Speck stack up against Foobot, Aware, Dylos and other air quality monitors on the market?

One year ago at SxSW, the Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab promised to collect air quality sensors and test them, openly publishing all data. To help families and air quality advocates make better, more informed choices, the CREATE Lab took a closer look at several sensors on the market. Monitors tested include: Air Quality Egg, Awair, BlueAir Aware, Dylos DC1100 Pro, Foobot and Speck. The report also studied the process of downloading data from each device and time-stamping it correctly - which was not at all easy in some cases.

Several different air quality sensors on the market were tested against a Grimm EDM 180, an EPA-approved class III instrument. A particle generation system was used to expose each sensor to the same environment, at the same time. Researchers then studied the results of each sensor on three different scales: two-day views showing all the data for 80 hours; one-day views showing 11 hours; and one-peak views showing one 1.5 hour peak. The graph below shows how well Speck correlates to the Grimm (it was able to pick up on bad air quality)!

For an in-depth explanation of these Speck results and more, please see CMU CREATE Lab's website:

The full results are published here:

Watch Airviz CEO, Illah Nourbakhsh, speak on air quality and community empowerment:

To learn more about Speck or to purchase one, please visit our website:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Speck helps alleviate the stress of worrying about breathing!

John Fisken is a Vietnam combat veteran with COPD and lung abscess from Agent Orange. After doing some research online, he reached out to Speck for some help tracking his indoor air quality. Team Speck had a great chat with John!

What prompted you to start thinking about air quality?

Air quality is very important to me since I have COPD. I have never smoked, but am now on Oxygen most of the time. I used to have pneumonia every spring when I lived in Wisconsin. A few years ago, my wife and I moved to Arizona for the winter and to my wonderful surprise, I did not get pneumonia! Now we spend every winter in Arizona to experience the clean air. 

What motivated you to get a Speck?
After doing research, the Speck impressed me the most. I like the screen and the ability to see what is happening right away.

What did you do when you first received your Speck?
I first put Speck in the rooms where I spend the most time - my office was first, then the bedroom, living room, and dining room. I also tested the Speck on my covered porch outside.

What did you learn with Speck?
I was pleasantly surprised to see that our indoor air quality is quite good! I have 2 dogs and 1 cat and when they enter a room, I see that the Speck goes from good to moderate. My pets are great and I know that small spikes in my air quality reading are not harmful just as long as the moderate reading doesn't linger (and it never does!). Even the Arizona outdoor air quality was good.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?
I'm looking forward to learning more about my indoor air quality and why I might see spikes in fine particles. I glance at my Speck every time I walk into a room. And when I am away from home, I can watch the Speck app to see what the fine particle readings are.

The Speck is really enhancing my quality of life - it helps alleviate the stress of worrying about breathing. I am fortunate to have a great device that has an easy way of telling me what is going on with my air!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What does air quality and hockey have in common?

Hockey, eh?

In a fast-paced game like hockey, milliseconds often determine the success of athletes. Did you know that air quality can have a huge impact on performance? Bad indoor air causes fatigue, headache, cough, stuffiness and dryness of eyes and mucous membranes.

I love hockey (like a true Pittsburgher) and I love air quality (like a true CREATE Lab member). I was fairly surprised to find such a strong link between the two, and I hope that this post will bring some awareness to Zamboni choice in ice rinks! Hockey players deserve a safe environment.

In general, bad air quality affects athletes more than the general population. When athletes perform, the deep, heavy breathing both increases the total volume of air moving in and out of lungs and also allows pollutants to bypass the nose, where mucous tissues can trap some of the chemicals before they get to the lungs. Now lets focus on hockey - a fast-paced game where players are constantly skating up and down the rink after the Zamboni has resurfaced the ice. Many rinks are still using diesel-powered Zambonis. We've all watched diesel-powered busses zip past us on the street - a black cloud of smog is emitted after the driver hits the gas. In a diesel-powered Zamboni, the same thing happens. You can imagine the health implications caused by combustion smoke (which includes fine particles and many chemicals) + deep breathing. Immediate effects can include cough, fatigue, headache, etc., all affecting athletic performance. Click here to learn more about fine particles and health.

Photo Credit: NPR. Annette Zoepf/dapd via AP

Below are some real examples of bad air quality affecting hockey player health in ice rinks:

According to NPR, 31 people got sick after spending time at an indoor ice rink in New Hampshire. Some were even hospitalized with lung problems! The culprit? The ventilation system in the rink broke, so when the Zamboni ran, the combustion emissions produced by the diesel-powered engine polluted the air.

ESPN's 2009 E:60 investigation of 34 rinks in 14 states:

At the time, only 3 out of the 50 states set laws to regulate indoor air quality at ice rinks. ESPN also mentions a March 2009 episode where fumes from a poorly maintained ice resurfacer sent 100 people to the hospital and forced four teams to withdraw from a college tournament outside Cleveland.

Growing up, I spent my fair share of time in ice rinks. My brother played on a number of travel teams, and for the siblings (like me) in the fan section, the Zamboni was a crowd-favorite machine - what kid doesn't want to drive one of those?! While I would (still) do almost anything to drive a Zamboni, I care much more about my brother's health and if ice rink conditions are safe for him. Working at Airviz has taught me so much about indoor air quality and maintaining a safe environment. I'm happy to see companies like Zamboni releasing emission-free and electric models and hope that all rinks choose to utilize them. Hockey is a great sport and the players deserve to feel safe!

Noteworthy article: Chicago Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews, speaks on sustainability, environmental impact, and climate change.

Photo Credit: USA Today. Article by Maggie Hendricks and Hemal Jhaveri.

~Sara, Airviz Inc.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Environmental Justice Meets Citizen Science Tech!

This week, we announced something that's never happened before - a national program where we give air quality monitors (for free!) to all libraries who agree to lend Specks to their patrons! We believe that clean air is a human right, so we've developed this program to improve access to air quality monitoring and get Specks in the hands of those who otherwise might not be able to afford them.

Partnered with Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab, we have developed the National Library Program and the Air Quality Advocate Program. For more information on both programs and instructions on how to apply:

Press release

Huffington Post Article:

National Speck Library Program
Our goal for this national library program is to change the relationship between all citizens and the air pollution that affects their health. Together with you, we can take a major step in this direction by improving equitable access to Speck air quality monitors across the country. We are offering 3 free Specks, informational materials, and training to public libraries that agree to make the Specks available on loan to their patrons.

Air Quality Advocate Program
Our goal for this program is to engage with awesome individuals like you to build a community of local experts for Speck and indoor air quality in general. Pairing this program with our National Library Program also has the added benefit of providing local support for libraries as they explore ways to introduce Speck to their patrons. Upon admission, you will receive 1 free Speck!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Compare Indoor and Outdoor Air Quality on your Speck!

Do you have a Speck? A few weeks ago, we launched a cool new feature for all Specks that are Wi-Fi configured for data uploads, geolocated, and within 40 kilometers of a regulated, federal PM2.5 station in our database! Have you seen it?.......

Now you can compare your indoor Speck reading with the outdoor air quality! How does your indoor air quality compare to your outdoor air quality? We spend about 90% of our time indoors and it is important to pay attention to both reports!

Tell us your air quality stories by connecting with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Remember to use #SpeckSensor in all of your posts!

This feature is currently only available to those who live in the United States and some parts of Canada and Mexico. For a map of all federal stations currently in our database, please see the Public Data page, and uncheck the "Outdoor Specks" and "Indoor Specks" checkboxes.
If you know of an online source for federal PM2.5 data outside the USA, and/or are interested in helping us expand our database of federal data, please email us at!
For more information, visit!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

These elementary school students used Speck to launch an anti-idling campaign!

Utah has experienced some of the worst air quality in the entire United States! The particle concentration in Utah is consistently higher than most other cities (especially this past February). One school in Salt Lake City has taken matters into their own hands - thanks to the hard work of Quail Hollow Elementary and Speck!

About a year ago, Quail Hollow Elementary borrowed Speck monitors. For three weeks, students used Specks to gather baseline information about vehicle pollution and PM 2.5 levels (which turned out to be quite high) at the school and counted all cars that were idling during drop off/pickup times in front of the school between January 24, 2014 and January 27, 2014. Students then learned how to talk about air pollution with their parents and took home an air quality informational packet and an anti-idling pledge sheet - thus launching an anti-idling campaign!

Photo from Look how beautiful that background is!

After a number of parents signed the anti-idling pledge sheet, they started to carpool and/or turn off their car engines during drop off/pickup times. After seeing this change in behavior, students used Specks again to measure vehicle pollution and counted the number of cars outside of the school.

Below is a chart of Speck data collected by the elementary students before and after the anti-idling campaign.

Results: The anti-idling campaign worked! Vehicle emission directly effects the indoor and outdoor air pollution in the school. The best part? Elementary school students used Speck technology to make a direct change to their community and promote a healthier society! How SPECKtacular!

Here is a full recap of the study:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

InSPECKtion Series: Electric Clothes Dryers and High Speck Numbers and Possible Solutions.

About a week ago, we got an email from Jim in Portland, Oregon. He purchased a Speck 2.0 and has been using it to explore how his appliances affect the air quality in his home.

Jim states below...
"The [Speck] reading went from 200 to 7,000 counts while we were running the clothes dryer today! Yikes. Clothes dryer probably pulling in outside air by a vacuum when running according to my engineer son, who knows about particle sensing as he works for Intel Corp."

According to FineHomeBuilding, electric dryers typically act as an exhaust fan and can create lower air pressure inside the house than outside. This pressure change can case a backdraft - by definition, a backdraft can overpower the chimney draft of a naturally vented combustion device - including a furnace, boiler, water heater, or wood-burning fireplace. A backdraft will pull the exhaust particles back into your home (which could be why Jim saw an increase in his Speck count)!

In order to fix the problem, it's best to consult a professional. Reuben Saltzman writes a Home Inspector blog and poses some viable solutions here:

Thanks to Jim for sharing his story! We are happy to hear that Speck allowed you to perform a home inSPECKtion!

InSPECKtion Series: Everything you need to know about carpet cleaning. Steam v Shampoo and Speck!

It's Spring cleaning time! Do you wash your carpets? Renée from Pittsburgh, PA used her Speck in a home inSPECKtion to explore why a non-asthmatic like herself was having trouble breathing when the carpets were cleaned.

Renée is a preschool teacher, mother of 3 (1 with asthma), dog owner and very much like you and I! Renée submitted the following story to us after shampooing her carpets just before the holidays.

I deep clean my carpets at least twice a year to remove dust and allergens - it makes me feel like my house is cleaner and like I am doing good for my family and my asthmatic daughter. I don't have Asthma myself, but when I use the carpet cleaner, I cough, sneeze and have trouble breathing. I've even used a rescue inhaler and left the house for HOURS after using the carpet cleaner. When I got my Speck, I decided to use it alongside of the carpet cleaner to expose exactly what was happening. See photo below.

My Speck number climbed to almost 7,000 counts at one point! No wonder I have to leave the house after I use this thing!

For reference, Renée used a a Bissel deep carpet cleaner rented from a local grocery store partnered with the wash that is purchased separately. What she now knows, thanks to Speck, is that the chemicals in the shampoo solution and the dust/allergens in the carpet are sucked up by the machine and then spit back out into the air resulting in a HUGE increase in indoor air pollution.

It is no secret that hardwood floors remove bad indoor air quality problems, but depending on the size of the home and quality of the wood, this can be an expensive fix. Renée has now switched to using a professional carpet cleaning company (certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America) to steam clean her carpets. Check out the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification for more details on why steam cleaning is more sanitary.

Thank you Renée for sharing your story! We are happy to hear that Speck helped you find a solution to keeping your family's home safe and clean!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Excited To Announce Speck 2.0! Relative Humidity and Long-Range WiFi

We are thrilled to announce the newest version of Speck: Speck 2.0! Check it out at

Speck 2.0 has all of the great features that Classic Speck does, but this time, we have included a relative humidity sensor and long-range WiFi. I bet you are wondering why we chose to include these features?! See our responses below....

1. Relative humidity is an important part of the indoor air pollution picture and we wanted to add it as part of our mission to empower more people to breathe easier! Now you can view your Speck's fine particle count, temperature, and relative humidity on your account. According to EPA standards, you should keep indoor humidity low - below 60 percent (ideally between 30 and 50 percent). View this EPA mold guide for strategies and more information on how to keep indoor relative humidity low.

2. While we love the fact that Classic Speck has WiFi connectivity, it is not quite as strong as the WiFi signal in your mobile phone or laptop. As a result, we have decided to improve this feature for you and increase the WiFi range of Speck 2.0!

While it was important to us and our customers to add these features, we have decided not to raise the price of Speck 2.0 and to continue to offer it at $199. Instead, we've gone ahead and dropped the price of Classic Speck to $149!

We hope that you will enjoy Speck 2.0 and continue to join us on our journey to work together to understand and take control of the air we breathe every day! Please continue to connect with us and other Speck users by following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram - use #SpeckSensor on all your posts to become a part of the conversation! And you can always contact us at - we love to hear from you!

~Team Speck