Most people identify formaldehyde with the pungent smelling fluid used to preserve frogs, and worms in high school biology laboratories. More recently, formaldehyde compounds have come into common use in UF (Urea Formaldehyde) glues used in wood products and compounds used in a wide array of other household products, including:
- Wood products such as plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), wood paneling, particle board, (used in some furniture) cabinetry and flooring, (UF glued wood products can release up to 100 times more formaldehyde than natural soft woods).
- Paints and adhesives
- Paper products such as grocery bags, facial tissues, disposal sanitary products
- Insulation; both the UF types of the 1970-1980s; and the presently very popular Spray Foam
- Fabric treatments such as wrinkle free, fire retardants, permanent press, waterproofing
- Improperly adjusted natural gas or propane flame in central heating units
- Cosmetics, deodorants, shampoos disinfectants, etc.
Boston Environmental conducts testing for formaldehyde in the room air, differently than for other Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), because this analyte is difficult to detect with standard VOC test instruments and procedures. Although formaldehyde is a volatile liquid which is easily vaporized when exposed to room air, its chemistry is unique making it difficult to detect at the extremely low levels where it can be harmful.
When any of these products off gas they can result in sensitized individuals reacting to the formaldehyde in the air and suffering bronchial distress, watery and/or burning eyes, nausea, asthma attacks, headaches, fatigue and other such problems.
Moreover, formaldehyde has been identified as a carcinogen in instances of prolonged exposure at elevated levels. The current NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) threshold limit is 16 parts per billion (ppb). The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has established a formaldehyde Chronic Exposure, Minimum Risk Level (MRL) at 8 ppb* for exposure of 365 days per year or greater, as might be common typical residential exposure.
*CDCs, Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR)
Boston Environmental has the capability to measure formaldehyde in the air of a room or building or being breathed by employees utilizing several EPA approved methods, including:
- adsorbent strips (hung inside of cabinets, closets etc. (EPA Method 2016M);
- adsorbent badges worn by individuals working in areas where formaldehyde may be present (EPA Method 2016M); and
- sorbent tubes, through which a specific quantity of room air is drawn and brought in contact with an enclosed coated media.
Each of these methods/devices are subsequently sent to and analyzed by a certified environmental laboratory after exposure, whereupon the level of formaldehyde in the air is calculated. Remediation of formaldehyde in room air usually achieved by removal of the off-gassing material/s from the contaminated area; or when not possible, diluting the formaldehyde laden room air with fresh air via installation of an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) or HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator.