Formaldehyde Is a Hot Topic in the News. The wood products company Weyerhaeuser recently recalled their Flak Jacket product where odor and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) concerns are an issue. The 60-Minutes Lumber Liquidators piece on Health and Safety Violations associated with Formaldehyde will shock you. Watch it right now for the sake of your family’s health.
What You Should Know About Formaldehyde
We are all exposed to small quantities of Formaldehyde in air, foods we eat and in products we use. In fact, small amounts of formaldehyde are produced naturally by plants, animals and humans. But its use in the production of resins that bind many of the wood products in our homes that is of particular concern. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a great resource to get all the details.
Is My Home’s Indoor Air Quality at Risk?
When building materials such as wood floors and plywood; furniture; carpeting and household products off-gas inside the home, formaldehyde can reach dangerous levels. It’s a colorless flammable gas that quickly breaks down making it difficult to detect. When you can smell it or when mixed with other chemicals and irritants, even low level exposure can cause a variety of health effects.
Formaldehyde Health Effects
Low level exposure health effects are eye, nasal, and throat irritation and neurological effects. Coughing, wheezing, chest pains, and bronchitis are also a concern. Reproductive issues, changes in lung function and eczema (inflamed / irritated skin) is found in high level exposure. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen where the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) has detailed information on health effects.
Low-Level Formaldehyde Exposure
Even fairly low concentrations (e.g., 0.3 ppm) can produce rapid onset of nose and throat irritation causing cough, chest pain, shortness of breath and wheezing. And if you are a sensitized person, narrowing of the bronchi can develop resulting in Reactive Airway Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS).
The Odor Threshold
Formaldehyde can often be detected by smell, even at low levels. Sensitized persons can get headaches, minor eye and airway irritation at levels below the odor threshold (0.5 to 1.0 ppm – where a good investigator can smell it; OSHA PEL is 0.75 ppm). When other chemicals and irritants are involved, sensitized individuals don’t have many options.
What Can I Do?
Engaging a qualified Building Biologist to perform an IAQ investigation is a good idea. They will interview the occupants, assess building materials and contents, take air and / or bulk material testing and followup with a report with recommended courses of action for immediate relief.
How Do I Get Relief?
The quickest way to get relief is to remove yourself from the premises and start ventilating the home. If no relief is obtained removing / encapsulating suspect materials is your next option. But the source of formaldehyde may be so ingrained in your home that removal can be quite an undertaking.
Do You Have More Questions?
Have persistent respiratory or other health issues that you suspect may be coming from Formaldehyde? An investigation by a qualified IAQ Firm such as GreenWorks Environmental, LLC will help determine your next move. Call one of their Building Biologists at (732) 223-2073 to get some answers.
Got Moisture, Odor and Mold Issues?