Responsible Investor

Open the window!

Some useful tools to cope with domestic air pollution

And you thought smog and fine particulates were a problem? According to WHO, the air inside our homes could be even worse than the one outside. But now there are intelligent light bulbs and sensors that can tell us when it’s time for a breath of fresh air.


Every year, air pollution is back in the headlines. Fine particulates and carbon dioxide are now part of everyday conversation, especially for people who live and work in the city. It’s a problem and it’s not deniable. But what about the quality of the air we breathe at home, in the office, or at school? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), we spend over 90% of our time indoors and the stuff we breathe between four walls could be up to 50% worse than the air outside. And the numbers speak for themselves: WHO reports that more than 4.3 million deaths per year are caused by bad indoor air quality, against 3.7 million resulting from smog.

There are many sources of this domestic air pollution: from substances like formaldehyde that are released by furniture, to mold and mildew, which are hotbeds of germs and spores that pose a real threat to our lungs. In the long run, bad indoor air quality can lead to chronic respiratory diseases like asthma or bronchitis.


The World Health Organization suggests that the only solution to domestic air pollution is to make sure that rooms are well ventilated. By opening the windows, for instance, or installing systems like controlled mechanical ventilation units, which boost air exchange rates and also minimize heat loss. Apart from that, though, how can we tell whether the air indoor is good or bad? One way is with ARIA: the first sensor designed to detect radon, a killer gas that emanates from the soil and many construction materials and that, according to Italian National Institute of Health data, is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking. Developed by RSens, a spinoff from a research project at the universities of Modena and Trento, ARIA is a shell-shaped indoor air quality monitor. The device can be connected to smartphones and tablets so that you can check the concentration of radon and other domestic pollutants at any time.

Concentrations of fine particulates and formaldehyde, on the other hand, are measured by HALADIN’s, which stands for HArdware Low-cost for Air quality Detection in INdoor spaces. It is a light bulb/sensor developed by CSI-Piemonte together with CSP-Innovazione which indicates indoor air quality by means of three colored LEDs: green when the environment is healthy, yellow when air quality isn’t good enough and red when it’s time to open the windows.

Lastly, Apple launched HomeKit, a new platform that will allow programmers and nerds of all stripes to create apps for remotely controlling household appliances and devices, from thermostats – where internet-connected systems have already appeared on the market – to air exchange devices.