Back in September, probably sometime between campaigns, I sent a note to the team at Atmotube, asking if I could review their product. They quickly said yes, and within a couple weeks I had an Atmotube Pro device clipped near-constantly to my belt loop, where it’s been most days for the last 2 months. 

Atmotube is a personal air quality monitor—it tracks humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, particulate matter (10 and 2.5) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). We’ve had a lot of time to get acquainted, as when after a month of use I’d planned to write this, I got a lung infection and blah blah blah. Not why we are here (but it will come up).

There are two models of the Atmotube, the tube-looking one and the Pro, which is the version they sent me. There are some functional differences between the two, but for me, I was most happy with the battery life on the Pro. I have mine set to test the air quality every 10 minutes, since I’m usually at home. As I understand it, it also does on-demand tests when you hit the button, so when I’m curious, that’s a good option too. 

Pressing the button illuminates the multicoloured LED present just above the button—the colour displayed corresponds to the colour the monitor associates with the air quality, from blue [great] to red [poor] with green, yellow and orange in the middle. It also does an on-demand air quality test. Opening the app gives you a greater sense of what your environmental air “looks like” at a given moment in time. Here’s one from as I’m editing this article:

I should really move the air purifier to the kitchen. More on that shortly.

First days with the Atmotube Pro
I sent a lot of messages to friends during the first few days with the Atmotube—this thing is COOL. I wore it out the first night I got it, but was outside most of the evening in great air quality, so my results were as expected. The next day, though, is clear in my mind. Here’s what my day looked like:
Noon – Left home to go to Staples and Shoppers Drug Mart.
12:45 – Shoppers drug mart asked I come back in an hour and a half for my flu shot.
1 PM – Arrived at a nearby apartment building to canvass for the federal election.
2 PM – Completed canvassing 2 floors, walked back to the mall.
2:10 – Went to the food court for a root beer
2:15 – Arrived back at the pharmacy
2:45ish – Returned to the apartment building, chatted with seniors, finally began canvassing again.
4:40 PM – Left apartment to walk to meet my parents for my mom’s birthday dinner. Immediately upon opening door (my hand was still on it!), the Atmotube app IMMEDIATELY alerted the humidity had dropped past the set threshold. My mind was BLOWN how fast it was.
5:05 PM – Finally get to near restaurant but we are not going there anymore. Get in the car.
5:15 PM – Arrive at Mongo’s Grill, an open-grill Mongolian-style stir-fry restaurant if you couldn’t guess.
5:20 PM – Atmotube continues to freak out about high particulate matter for the duration of the meal.
6:30 PM – Arrive home, where the air quality is consistently decent-but-not-great. 

Here’s what the graphs look like from that day:
 

Beyond everyday use
Within a week of getting the Atmotube, I headed off to Philadelphia. The device itself stores data while not connected to a smartphone, so being on the plane didn’t hinder my data collection (although I think it was still connected). The air quality was surprisingly good on all 4 of my flights, which I found interesting—and shocking! The hotel also didn’t cause me any asthma issues as they sometimes do, and the air quality there was also consistently good! 

My friend John also has an Atmotube, and he noted the air quality in the hospital he works in isn’t great – when I went to Urgent Care a couple months ago, I forgot to take the Atmotube with me, which is disappointing because I was sort of looking forward to that experiment! 

What I’ve learned from the Atmotube
I’ve learned a few things from using Atmotube. Here’s the most interesting one:

I very quickly noted sharp drops in air quality when cooking. I checked out a Government of Canada document that notes running the stove exhaust fan when cooking to be helpful for promoting indoor air quality (by drawing the particulate matter out of the house) – I’d love to speak to how the data from Atmotube Pro actually changes but I assume there are many variables involved that would make this complicated for my non-scientist brain to wrap around—ie. duration of cooking, what is being cooked and how, when or whether the exhaust fan was turned on, and device proximity. I can say the effects are a consistent drop in air quality with most stovetop cooking, though (as first noted at Mongo’s). As I wrote this section, my dad was just making food on the stovetop (with the exhaust fan on), some sort of grilled sandwich, as well as making coffee in the percolator. When I opened up the app a minute ago, the air quality score was about 50 – but the sensor is down the hall. Now it’s 66, sensor still down the hall, about 12 steps away.

The next is that some buses appear to have worse air quality than others, even when riding on the same route. I am curious if this is bus-model specific, but haven’t yet been able to determine reliably. It’s fascinating (but also sucky?). 

Oh, and this will surprise no one: It’s true – hockey arenas have poor air quality.
So do food courts. 

Changes I’ve made
Related to the stove exhaust, we try to run it more frequently when cooking on the stovetop.  I have purchased a “pluggable” “air sanitizer” (mostly because it was on sale for $30) made by Germ Guardian that is apparently good for minimizing cooking odours—it wasn’t running when the above food related numbers were cited. Of course, it’s really difficult to tell how well it works because “food odours” are pretty subjective, and I’m going to assume, the particles released are perhaps not super uniform.
But check it out—here’s a small peak in particulate matter during food prep time:
 

Though generally our house air quality scores are quite good overall, I also ordered an air purifier on Boxing Day (a JS FLO). And damn, I can tell you, the Atmotube says that thing actually works—here are the graphs. The first 2 are from the first time I turned the air purifier on. The third is from the day where I heard you should run the air purifier for a couple hours before you go to bed (makes sense, no?) so I left the Atmotube in my room with it.

If it isn’t clear, air quality score (AQS) should go up, VOCs (and particulate matter) should go down. 

Problems I’ve had with Atmotube
The problems I’ve experienced with Atmotube are pretty minimal.

The first, with the LED, you have to hold the device at a very particular angle to see the actual corresponding colour to the current air quality—if you move the device around, you see different colours. For this (and for the greater amount of data), I prefer to use the app.

The device also comes pre-calibrated, and states it does not require regular calibration as it will continue to calibrate as it works. In mid-November (coincidentally, just as I was getting sick with that lung infection), I was getting consistently lower readings. This is also right when it got colder, and I assumed, when the furnace was running more—so, having asthma, I attributed this to why I was feeling cruddy. (As determined later, it was a lung infection leading to the asthma issues.) I did hit the recalibrate button. The change in results (which improved), of course, lead to questioning on my part of the accuracy of the device—it’s generally been consistent . I’d love to do side-by-side comparisons between two devices, such as with another Atmotube Pro, or a different personal air quality monitor (I think there’s maybe one other on the market right now), to see if results are consistent. I still think given my experiences—ie. poor air quality on buses with doors constantly opening and closing in traffic, realistic responses to humid environments and temperature changes, and so on—that the device is reliable.

There’s also a barometer function that I really don’t use—the scale goes from “stormy” to “very dry”, and it’s always apparently “stormy” with low pressure. I don’t know much about this, but I certainly know it’s currently cold but calm outside! 

Oh and this isn’t really a problem, but more of a funny: the Atmotube always alerts me to poor air quality when I do a nebulizer treatment. The particles are likely 5-7 micrometres, which is near certainly registering in the atmotube as an influx of PM10 (which is particulate matter 10 micrometres or less in diameter. I will maintain that the Ventolin I am inhaling is good for my lungs and not a pollutant!

What I’d like to see
While the Atmotube has already given me so much more data and insight than I’d have expected possible—seriously, this thing is cool—the main thing I’d really like to see from the Atmotube app is actually a bit more different information. It does a good job of really concisely saying what you can do in general to improve indoor air quality, but it’d be nice to see, for instance, some information tailored to what you’re experiencing. “Hey. Your PM2.5 is increasing. If you’re cooking, try running the hood fan.” “Hey, your house seems pretty dry. Here’s what can help right now and over time.” (My house is apparently too dry all the time. Other than buying a humidifier, which I don’t want to do, I still don’t know what to do about that.” While I will say it has told me to get plants to increase my household humidity, I’ll say I’ve only been successful at keeping my cactus alive for several years… and it’s a cactus.
More actionable alerts rather than generalized articles would perhaps actually encourage people to do things to alter their indoor air quality, humidity, or so-forth. Like right now, I’d like to know where the heck the elevated VOCs are coming from causing the app to “alarm”!

I can also think of a number of great quantified self projects when I decide to dig into playing with the CSV files a bit more. But that is a nerdy pursuit for another day!

Who Atmotube is for
Are you a nerd who likes checking a device you’re wearing all the time? Do you have a health condition, like asthma or heart disease that makes it more important for you to know what you’re breathing? Are you willing to put some time in to devise patterns, do some research, and make your own inferences from the data the Atmotube is getting you? If yes to any or all of these (all = me), and you can make the financial investment, I’d say yes. I’ve found using the Atmotube the last several months fascinating and illuminating to what, exactly, is in the air I’m breathing. 
Even if that happens to be Ventolin and it tells me its pollution. We can’t be totally perfect. 😉 

Disclosure: I reached out to the makers of Atmotube, who sent me an Atmotube Pro device to review honestly (and keep) with no strings attached beyond just writing this article. They were fabulous answering my many questions, sending a reviewers guide, and being patient in all my delays getting this article out—thanks, Ariuna and Daria!

Hello there, remember me? The person who allegedly writes this blog except has not been here since day 7 of a 31 day challenge, in which she just disappeared into thin air?

Hi, it’s me. Not dead. (Clearly there are many other internet-y ways to determine that I am not dead, so I don’t think this was a concern).

Where have I been?

Writing. Toronto for a few days in October. Writing. Goalball. Coaching. Failing Nanowrimo even though I built my best-yet support group (I hope Jordan, John, Marie and Sara did better than I!). Archery—I get to use a compound bow now and it’s effing awesome. Zurich. Yes, as in Switzerland. Watching too much Lockup on Netflix and Supersize vs. Superskinny on YouTube, and in the last few days, Josh Sundquist’s channel. Mostly Lockup in a distracting from writing fashion. Reading books with my ears. Taking in podcasts on the weirdness of America. So, I have very much been places—and covered a lot of ground both geographically and inside my brain—but that is about it. 

Oh, thanks to Amazon I am done close to half my Christmas shopping and it’s only December second. I have previously ordered a few choice items online, but between this and some random items I’ve picked up in previous months, I am half done, which is still not as good as the done I wanted to be by the end of November but whatever. I blame jet lag. 

Now, I feel like I am going to just finish this post off right here, and hopefully come at you soon with another post that is on one topic and not just a jumble from an ADHD brain, as this one is.

In 2018, I plan to try to drop by at least once a month. I don’t think that’s a stretch… But well, we’ll see. 😉

While I often update my disclosures page without a whole post about it, this one needs attention called to it. Because, transparency.

Last week, I signed a contract with AstraZeneca Global, to participate in the Global Asthma Patient Partnership Program, after engaging in an initial webinar to get a feel for the experience, and receiving an invitation to join the Program for a year. I will receive financial compensation for my involvement on projects that I can opt-in-and-out of on a project by project basis. The initial webinar was also compensated by AstraZeneca.

I had hesitations. I thought long and hard. I asked questions about the contract. I deliberated alongside others in the same position; others aware of and sharing in the concerns I have about being involved as a patient with a pharmaceutical company. (You can also see this post from 2015 about going on a trip to Denver to learn about a GSK sponsored school asthma program on GSK’s tab, and my thoughts.)

AstraZeneca and its products are no longer a player in my own asthma management (I do have a Turdoza inhaler at home, although that’s a long story and is not actually one of my meds). I switched out Pulmicort for Qvar and then Symbicort for Zenhale close to five years ago. Had I been on AstraZeneca meds, this would actually be much harder, if that even makes sense, as their product(s) would be the ones keeping me healthy.

Do I think I am “partnering” with AstraZeneca? 

No, not exactly—more accurately I’d call it consulting. AstraZeneca can take or leave my feedback. I receive compensation either way. Just like I do and will write honestly, I’ll give them feedback honestly, too. Compensation won’t change that (unlike physician prescribing practices—see: Who Pays For the Pizza). I won’t be switching my meds out anytime soon. It’s likely that I won’t discuss AstraZeneca at all, which has been the case with GSK (considering I even get embargoed press releases since Denver).

Learn more about the AZ Patient Partnership Program by checking out the FAQ

Know that this is a trial run for me, too. I’m still getting a feel for this and how exactly I want to move forward. I can terminate my agreement at any time, but I am hoping that this is a positive experience—while it probably (almost certainly) won’t change how I see pharma, hopefully it changes how AstraZeneca sees asthma patients, which is maybe even more important.

Have questions? I cannot disclose anything discussed in the projects I consult on with AstraZeneca. (Nor, you know, their products/drugs, because I am not a doctor.) Otherwise, please let me know if you have questions or concerns and I will do my absolute best to address them.

Disclosure: As I have signed a contract with AstraZeneca, I provided this post for review by the Patient Engagement Director prior to publication (the only edits requested and made were referring to AstraZeneca by its full name). AstraZeneca did not ask me to write this post (rather, the opposite per the contract, although the Patient Engagement Director was encouraging). Transparency, however, is extremely important to me. I want you to know these things, so that we—as patients—can be more critical. 

Hello, 2017. Hello, blog. 

I want to blog more this year. And read 50 books and watch 17 movies and write more things and learn Braille and also find more work (yay!). So I don’t know where the time for the blogging will come, but I’d like to post weekly. We’ll see how that goes.

https://i0.wp.com/farm1.staticflickr.com/418/32177559155_8c2c527c4f.jpg?resize=400%2C500&ssl=1January 1. As usual (except because I was sick last year and we delayed New Years Eve partying) I started 2017 at the Epp’s. Trish gave us pie before they went out, which we ate after midnight. We played Say Anything and Cards Against Humanity and Tom and I read parts of books that he got for Christmas. Because we are nerds?
As usual we also went to Jack Pott’s on New Year’s Day. Sadly, Dean won the annual air hockey game.

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January 2. My mom and I went to bingo but apparently Share the Wealth bingo is weird. Anyways, we played penny slots after so of course I spent some quality time with Groovy Louie. I only ended up spending $19 of the $25 I put in so I consider that a win for like an hour and a half of entertainment.

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January 3. Well, that’s a good mail day (after a fun day with Dean and Jackie at Kawaii Crepe and wandering the Village.)

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I got a 3Doodler for Christmas but it jammed and was super terrible to get the maintenance cover back on so I took it back and got a Scribbler.

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So I made Dean and Jackie things. Yay!

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I also got a package from the National Foundation for Transplant regarding Steve’s lung transplant fundraising. (More to come!)

January 4. Dean and Jackie and I went for lunch with my mom, aunt and cousin Alyssa. Dean and Jackie and I went to visit my grandma. Here are pretty trees down her street that Jackie and I stopped to take a picture of.

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Then that evening I used my new donut pans from Lindee to make chai donuts. They were delicious.

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January 5. I did some work (what is work?!) and then went to get Dean’s oil changed with him and Jackie (exciting details, I know). Lindee made dinner including some of the best mac and cheese ever. EVAH.

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These darn kids are going back to Minneapolis and I think they should just stay here.

January 6.

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After a bunch of really cold days, -16 feels like a heatwave where I just about like, melted in the mall en route to work. I was tempted to take my jacket off but I settled for unzipping it and my hoodie. After work, we went to the light show which, like last year, was rad. 

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 January 7.

 

First cupcake of 2017 only took 7 days. And it’s basically the prettiest damn cupcake I’ve ever had. And, it was from Save On Foods at that. 
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Miguel also threw a surprise party for my cousin Jenn’s birthday tonight, and while I was too busy eating that cake (Jeanne cake = best), but the cupcake really symbolizes that pretty well, too.

See ya next week! (Maybe even tomorrow, but… maybe.)

Today is Wordless Wednesday except with words. So it’s just Wednesday, really.

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12:## am | kitchen. Bedtime snack pumpkin pie, BOOM.

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12:## am | kitchen. WTF, Winnipeg. It’s October 12th. Snow is not okay.

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11:22 am | kitchen. I swear I do leave my kitchen. It’s #LDchat time, like it is every (or most, for me) Wednesdays!

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##:## pm | bus stop. I wrote half a blog post while I sat here because I got to the bus stop 11 minutes early. Also the snow went away and there is still a flower at the bus stop.

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##:## pm | mall. I found all the sweary colouring books and sent this picture to Tara. Then she bought a sweary colouring book (which kind of surprised me, actually!)

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##:## pm | my office. It’s still weird typing my office. Anyways, I’m super into both Command hooks and what the Internet calls office hacks now. So I put three more command hooks onto the wall—two are pictured here so my writing junk and dry erase junk doesn’t actually take up room on my desk.

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##:## pm | car. Driving to IKEA. The camera never captures the pretty sky…

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##:## pm | IKEA. Uh oh, the LAPTOP (which has a LAPTOP label on the other side) is BROKEN.

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##:## pm | closet. Trying to get paper plates for a craft for work… WHY the eff is there so much carbonated beverage in my house?

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##:## pm | my office. Refreshing my memory (aka re-learning all over again) about energy systems, adenosine triphosphate and lactic acid for a blog post.

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11:16 pm | my office. I plank in my office because I have foamy tiles there and it’s nice. The app said it was a day off today, so I just held the plank as long as i could moderately comfortably. To think I started at 55 seconds 13 days ago. (Don’t tell me about why rest days are important or whatever, kay? I have a kinesiology degree but it’s called a plank challenge for a reason.)

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11:28 pm | kitchen. Actually heading to bed before midnight because I’m going to a thing about budgeting in the morning (who am I?). My dad always leaves coffee cups and stuff here under the microwave. To like, reuse in the morning (or, if my mom is away, all weekend). It’s not like we don’t have a dishwasher he could put it in.

PS. I did the 3 minute Mindful vs. Mindless bitesize meditation after this. Yay.