Sunday, January 25, 2009

Personal environmental measurement

Quantified self-tracking is the regular collection of any data that can be measured about the self such as biological, physical, behavioral or environmental information. Additional steps may include the graphical display of the data and a feedback loop of introspection and self-experimentation.

So far a lot of quantified self-tracking has focused on measuring personal biomarkers (genomic and other biological data such as cholesterol, blood pressure, hormone levels, etc.) and behavior (exercise, calorie expenditure, sleep, weight, nutritional intake, time management, memory improvement systems, sexual activity, baby kicks from the womb, etc.). In addition to measuring these biomarkers and behaviors, another important area to evaluate is one’s environment, trying to answer…how toxic is my environment and what can I do about it? What is the quality of the general indoor and outdoor area around me and how are the specific products I use impacting me?

1) Measuring one’s personal environment
Two key personal environmental monitoring efforts are the UCLA Center for Embedded Networked Sensing’s participatory urban sensing project which uploads location data from GPS-enabled mobile phones to a central repository and generates Personal Environmental Impact Reports. A second effort is OpenSpime’s Internet-connected geosensors, being developed to capture ongoing real-time readings of pollution and other air quality indicators and automatically log the information to a collective display built on Google Maps.

2) Measuring one’s chemical body burden
Assessing body burden, or chemical body load counts is measuring the cumulative impact of exposure to toxic substances in the environment. Personalized chemical testing services generally focus on pollutants, evaluating the levels of selected pesticides, flame retardants, PCBs, dioxins and other substances. One example is the environmental scan conducted by Axys Analytical Services for David Duncan in the ExperimentalMan project. Environmental screening may also be conducted by hair analysis tests that assess exposure to toxic substances and perform nutritional analysis.

3) Measuring the toxicity of one’s personal care products
The toxicity level of personal care products such as soap, shampoo and cosmetics can be queried from the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.

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