January 21st, 2020, MKThink hosted a panel discussion highlighted the important connections between air quality, health, and performance. Panelists discussed research and findings about the dangers of invisible contaminants and their impact on organizations that seek to provide safe, healthy environments for the at risk populations in their care.

The event featured a panel discussion with:

– Christopher Anderson – CEO RoundhouseOne

– Collin Cavote – CEO Biome

– Jamie Bruning-Miles – Executive Vice President/COO YMCA of San Francisco

– Dr. Rachel L. Miller – MD, FAAAAI, Chief, Division of Clinical Immunology Icahn School of Med at Mt Sinai

Each panelist offered insight on their area of expertise.

Dr. Rachel Miller shared recent research showing the impact of poor air quality: increased development and exacerbation of respiratory disease, diminished cognitive functioning, increased risk for developing obesity and cancer among others. People with underlying illnesses (ie. lung & heart disease), pregnant women, children and the elderly are most vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality which can be long lasting. A child exposed to poor air quality before birth may present issues from that exposure later in life.

Chris Anderson introduced Air Angel, a commercial grade environmental monitoring system made for easy application and speed to insight. Air Angel was made possible through advancements in processing power, onboard memory, onboard power and cellular connectivity. It is a powerful tool to help organizations make decisions about how to keep kids (and vulnerable populations) as safe and healthy as possible.

Air Angel specifically measures Particulate Matter (PM10 & PM2.5), Total Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCS) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). There have been 150 sensors deployed in 17 locations. Anderson commented ‘If we manage what we measure, we should measure what matters.’ He points out that as the cost of information is coming down, the science is becoming very clear and and our awareness is increasing, the cost of ignorance is going up. It is no longer acceptable to not know. The technology is at a reasonable price point and the science is clear.

Jamie Bruning-Miles talked about the findings from using Air Angel to monitor air quality in YMCA facilities and their strategies for improving it. He mentioned that the YMCA has, over its 176 year history, been a leader in identifying health and safety issues the adjusting policies and practices to ensure the healthiest environments for the communities they serve. Air quality is the most recent area of impact they are studying and SF YMCA is leading the way.

Collin Cavote discussed methods to combat poor air quality such as the product his company, Biome, developed. It is based on the idea that we can use engineering and technology to have natural systems to help us. Taiga is a living wall that eats air pollution, needs no plumbing, has no soil, and comes complete with ultra-efficient LED lighting. The system actively flushes air which makes it more significantly more effective than regular plants. It lowers CO2, boost oxygen, the root system has embedded fans that pull air through the soil.

Highlights from each speaker:

Collin Cavote —

“We all drink about two or three water bottles a day but you breathe the equivalent of a seven foot square room of air a day. So if you are worried about your water quality, you should be worried about your air quality because you are consuming more of it.”

Chris Anderson —

“Looking over the data we’ve collected, we see two main types of issues. We see the situation in which the building and systems are working to keep outdoor pollutants out, and another in which we need to get indoor pollutants out.” The common outdoor – out scenario is wildfire smoke or traffic exhaust, which shows up as high AQI scores. “When we observe these heightened outdoor AQI scores, we can compare them to indoor AQI to measure how well a building is providing protection from outdoor pollutants, and we have seen a range of a 0-50 point difference across monitored locations.”

Dr. Rachel Miller —

“People have always known that air pollution is bad, smoking is bad but what we are learning is information about specific stuff in the air that is a problem. And, how it does not affect all people in the same way, so we have been focusing on vulnerable populations (pregnant women and children). … The (pollution) levels that may not have been previously recognized as problematic can be causing problems for them.”

Jamie Bruning-Miles —

“The air we’re breathing today isn’t the air we breathed when we were kids…. because we serve vulnerable populations, the YMCA is willing to go someplace new if the science says we need to do so.”