Charlene Bayer, PhD Chairman & Chief Science Officer at Hygieia Sciences Principal Research Scientist Georgia Tech Research Institute Senior Research Fellow for Materials & Healthy Buildings USGBC – PART 1 with an IAQA HALL OF FAMER

Air Date: 3-28-2014 | Episode: 320

Dr. Charlene Bayer is the Chairman and Chief Science Officer at Hygieia Sciences, founded to commercialize her technology for detecting human diseases from breath and her indoor air quality research…

Full Description:

Dr. Charlene Bayer is the Chairman and Chief Science Officer at Hygieia Sciences, founded to commercialize her technology for detecting human diseases from breath and her indoor air quality research. She is a Senior Research Fellow for Materials and Healthy Buildings at USGBC, a member of the USGBC EQ TAG and IAQP pilot credit workgroup, as well as the past Vice Chair of the USGBC Research Committee.  Additionally she is a Principal Research Scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

 Over the last 30+ years, her research has spanned the gamut of the indoor environment.  Her group was one of the early leaders in sick building and product emissions research.  She has spent much of her career developing methodologies to detect indoor air contaminants at increasingly low levels of detection. One of her long-term research areas is investigating the relationship between asthma and airborne exposures and developing real-time, wearable exposure monitoring systems for children.  She is currently researching breath analysis for the detection of health states, exposures, and diseases.  She was inducted into the IAQA Hall of Fame in March 2014.  She holds multiple patents and is author and presenter of over 150 papers.  She holds a Ph.D. and M.S. from Emory University in and a B.S. from Baylor University in Chemistry.


Z-Man’s Blog:

Air, is air, is air  

 Part 1 with Dr. Bayer

Dr. Charlene Bayer, PhD is both a pioneer in the study of IAQ (and inductee in the IAQA hall of fame) and is doing pioneering work in the detection of human diseases from breath. As a women who wanted to study science in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s it wasn’t easy. As an undergrad she found Baylor University a chauvinistic place. Baylor’s school of medicine gave up federal funding rather than admit women to medical school. Advice from a professor that she become a scientific librarian and not study chemistry didn’t deter her. Hindsight is always 20/20, I wonder what those who gave her a hard time at Baylor University would say now after reflecting on her many accomplishments?

Nuggets mined from today’s episode:

  • When asked what got her interested in IAQ? Initially studied water and sediment and prefers air, because “air is cleaner”.
  • When asked about how to get kids interested in science. Science is a game, a puzzle. If you like solving puzzles and figuring out why you’ll like science.
  • Studied one of the earliest IAQ complaints in the EPA office building in Atlanta, GA. The offices were located in a rented building.  IAQ problems were exacerbated when the poorly ventilated building was furnished with fiberboard cubicles installed from floor to ceiling. The cubicles emitted formaldehyde and other VOCs. Grape aroma from washroom air fresheners was pulled out of washrooms by movement of elevators.
  • Worked with carpet manufacturers to reduce chemical emissions.

On asthma:

  • Asthma is on the rise in the US and worldwide. Asthma stats: 8% of the US population has asthma. 10% of US kids have asthma, 18% of kids in Georgia have asthma, 27% of kids in Puerto Rico have asthma. 11% of worldwide population has asthma.
  • We don’t know what causes asthma we do know some pollutants exacerbate it. In order to measure exposures, with a grant from HUD, she developed a portable monitoring device which kids and adults can wear. The device measures selected pollutants in real time. The device also measures particulate.
  • Pollutant of the decade: formaldehyde, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, etc.
  • Different people have different triggers for asthma.
  • “Twitchy lung syndrome” refers to highly sensitive people who exhibit a rapid response to O3 and other ambient pollutants.
  • Studies done at the Atlanta Olympics confirmed that a lag time of 3 days between exposure to a trigger and an asthma attack. Time between exposure and attack is harder to track when exposure is constant.
  • On ozone action days it’s much safer to stay indoors, because only 25% of ozone penetrates the building shell.

On fungi:

  • She has learned from experience that using VOC signatures to detect presence of mold indoors doesn’t work very well. Indoor air is dynamic. VOCs can change during fungal competition and change back.
  • “Fungal physiology”, opined that a combination of fungi and VOCs are responsible for health effects that go beyond irritation.


  • When queried about bake-outs. Opined that “bake-outs” for remediation of VOC emissions rarely attain the necessary temperature to be effective and in some instances where temperature has been attained building materials have been damaged.  Advocates “flushing” is better than “bake out”.

Material transparency, healthy buildings and evidenced based design

  • Building material manufacturers do not intentionally want to hurt people. Google has given grant money to the US Green Building Council. Google’s goal is for consumers to be able to go to Home Depot and have the information to make building material product. Buying selections based on ingredients.
  • Healthy buildings: Beyond green (sustainable, energy efficient, and low environmental impact) she advocates “healthy buildings”. People are the most expensive thing in buildings. Buildings should be designed around people with human health (physical, social and psychological) in mind. A worthy goal, “buildings that make us feel like we’re outside when we’re inside.”
  • Evidenced based design is looking at what’s going on in a building and finding ways to make it better. For example improving nurse’s station.


  • Schools should have continuous ventilation and humidity control.
  • Hard to design tests that measure learning.
  • Productivity becomes learning, CO2 makes kids sleepy. Sleepy kids lose cognitive function.
  • Unplug air fresheners in school class rooms. Air fresheners and cleaning products contain chemicals that either are indoor environmental pollutants or react with ozone and to become pollutants.
  • Teachers lose voices when they need to yell to be heard over noisy HVAC systems.


“Dampers in an HVAC system are an excuse for I don’t know where the air is going.”

O3 and NO2 open holes in the lung and allow transfer of chemicals between lung and blood that don’t normally occur.

“Air, is air, is air. I guess she’s correct in finding common ground between outdoor air, indoor air, and looking for signs of disease in exhaled air; I just never would have thunk it.

 Today’s Music: “Air Song” from HAIR Soundtrack

Z-man signing off