Ottawa

Ottawa library hopes popular CO2 detectors help borrowers breathe better

The Ottawa Public Library is lending 28 handheld carbon dioxide (CO2) detectors to cardholders so they can check ventilation inside homes, workplaces or any other space, and potentially improve air quality to battle airborne infections.

Devices can read air quality, but there's quite the wait list

A person holds up a portable device with the reading '682', signifying carbon dioxide concentration in parts per million.
A portable CO2 monitor at the West Vancouver Memorial Library earlier this month. The Ottawa Public Library is lending the same brand. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Ottawa Public Library is lending 28 handheld carbon dioxide (CO2) detectors to cardholders so they can check ventilation inside homes, workplaces or any other space, and potentially improve air quality to battle airborne infections.

The Aranet4 devices started going out late last month, the library's manager of content services Ann Archer told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. The move followed the lead of libraries in Peterborough, Ont., and Toronto.

Higher indoor carbon dioxide levels — and less fresh oxygen getting in — can lead to a higher risk of airborne infections, according to the library. Poor air quality itself can also lead to fatigue, headaches and a sore throat.

Under 600 parts per million is considered excellent, while more than 1,000 is poor.

Ways to improve ventilation include opening a window, making sure fuel-burning appliances are properly vented, and considering mechanical ventilation options, says Health Canada.

These handheld devices given out by the library are different than the carbon monoxide detectors that warn of an increase in the dangerous gas that has no smell, taste or colour.

Testing and trying devices

As of Thursday morning there were 170 holds on the Ottawa library's 28 CO2 detectors. They can be borrowed for up to 21 days with a $325 fee if they're lost or damaged.

Archer said these devices are the latest step in a strategy to buy and make available more expensive devices. Aranet is selling them for $249 US, or about $340 Cdn.

"We're recognizing the library has a role in some more expensive tools, items, pieces of equipment … It's giving people an opportunity to test these things if they can't afford it, or if they want to test it before they buy it," she said.

Archer said the library's thermal cameras (228 holds on 72 devices) are another expensive piece of equipment available to loan, where people can check how their home's insulation is working.

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