Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In

Occupational and Environmental Health

First Advisor

T. Renée Anthony


Agriculture workers can be exposed to hazardous concentrations of airborne contaminants such as, particulate matter (PM), carbon dioxide (CO2), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Exposure to these contaminants has been associated with a high prevalence of acute and chronic respiratory symptoms: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and phlegm, as well as a reduction in lung function. Commercial low-cost indoor air quality (IAQ) monitors have the ability to detect many of the contaminants commonly found in agriculture. Limited research has been conducted on the performance of low-cost monitors in different occupational settings. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the Foobot (Airboxlab, San Francisco, CA, USA), a low-cost (IAQ) monitor, is sufficiently robust to operate in agricultural environments and provide useful and accurate information to farmers.

Foobots were deployed at two sites, a tractor repair shop (“Shop”) for 43 days and a finishing room in a swine production building (“Barn”) for 40 days, where they monitored PM2.5, CO2, and VOCs. Reference direct-reading monitors to compare Foobot readings were collocated with the Foobots. Paired sample results were compared over 19 days at the shop and 21 days at the barn.

At neither of the two sites did the Foobots meet the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) acceptable bias criterion of ± 10% when compared to the reference monitors. Linear regression results indicate that a strong linear relationship does not exist (R2< 0.66) between the Foobots and reference monitors. A significant difference (P< 0.031) was found between contaminant concentrations reported by each Foobot but the difference was not found to be substantial. The Foobot CO2 and VOC concentrations were highly correlated (R2=0.99). However, a strong linear relationship between the Foobot CO2 concentrations and the reference CO2 concentrations was not found at the shop (R2 = 0.02) or barn (R2 = 0.61).

After 40 days in the barn, the Foobots were reporting that damage had occurred to the sensors and were no longer functioning. In addition, the PM sensors in the three Foobots in the barn were contaminated after the study. Therefore, it was concluded that the Foobots were unable to supply farmers with accurate information and were not durable enough for agricultural environments. Future research will investigate the use of other low-cost monitors in agriculture.


Agriculture, Air quality, Direct-reading instruments, Foobot, Low-cost monitor, Swine


xii, 255 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 250-255).


Copyright © 2017 Taryn Bette Catherine Dausman