Formaldehyde: The Unsuspected Air Polluter
Many of us are exposed to formaldehyde daily and don’t know it. This chemical, a suspected carcinogen, is found in everyday products such as perfume, particleboard, laminate flooring, glues, pharmaceuticals, drapes, clothing, kitchen cabinets, paints, carpet padding, textiles, disinfectants, wood smoke and gas cooking.
Many organizations or government authorities suggest formaldehyde concentrations not exceed 80–100 ppb for short-term exposure and 40–50 ppb for long-term exposures. For occupational exposure (work setting), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set a recommended exposure limit of 16 ppb. Most homes test higher than these levels.
Common symptoms of acute exposure include irritation of the throat, nose, eyes, and skin; this irritation can potentially exacerbate asthma symptoms and other respiratory illnesses. Long term, or chronic, exposure may also cause chronic runny nose, chronic bronchitis, and obstructive lung disease. In 2004, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified formaldehyde as “carcinogenic to humans” related to nasopharyngeal cancer.
To reduce Formaldehyde levels in the home, there are several solutions:
- Identify & remove/seal the offending materials. This is the most effective and least costly solution in the long run. Our NTE -3100 equipment is designed specifically to pinpoint the exact surface of a home that is releasing formaldehyde. While there has always been various methods for measuring formaldehyde in the ambient air, there has not been a definitive test for actual surface testing in the field. So, while most IAQ specialists can determine that there IS formaldehyde in the air, they cannot say with great certainty WHERE in your environment its coming from. Until now…. We offer a 30 minute on-site test for various surfaces in your indoor environment, for example you can choose to test your laminate flooring, the wall paint, trim paint, individual furniture pieces, carpeting, bedspread, drapes, kitchen cabinets, etc. to identify what is emitting formaldehyde in your home so you can remove or seal it. Call 1-800-MY-AIR-TEST (1-800-692-4783) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your appointment.
- Increase fresh air entry into the home (to dilute the Formaldehyde). This can be accomplish manually (opening a few windows 1” on opposite sides) or mechanically (by installing a heat recovery ventilator or HRV which brings in fresh air through the furnace). The caveat with these is that they are typically installed with Flex ducts to and from the outdoors which causes mold growth in a short period of time (6-12 months based on hundreds of mold tests conducted in these ducts) so they should be installed using sheet metal ducts.
- Install a Potassium Permanganate (P.P.) filter on the furnace and operate the furnace fan in the “ON” mode instead of “AUTO”. These filters can be made to order by providing the dimensions of your current furnace filter. Charcoal filters are effective for adsorbing VOCs but P.P. filters are needed for Formaldehyde. If you later decide to do a VOC test for your home and it is found that the VOCs are elevated as well, then you could switch to a filter with a combination of charcoal for the VOCs and P.P. for the Formaldehyde.
- Seal offending surfaces with AFM Safecoat Products:
- SAFE SEAL for raw particle board and OSB
- HARD SEAL for already varnished surfaces but not flooring
- POLYURESEAL for flooring
- Operate an Air Purifier with Charcoal and P.P. such as the Austin HealthMate Plus Junior for smaller rooms like bedrooms or the Austin HealthMate Plus for larger rooms like the Living Room. This method is the least effective method.
- If the carpeting is the culprit, SafeChoice Carpet Seal (an AFM Product) can be used to block outgassing: