New Service – In-home Formaldehyde Testing.
We are pleased to announce that we are now able to offer residential clients inexpensive formaldehyde testing.
There is an increased national awareness and growing concern surrounding formaldehyde gas. The initial concerns coming to us were from people who were buying homes installed with Urea-Formaldehyde Foam Insulation, but recently of the concerns are of the gas being released from manufactured laminated flooring and other composite wood products.
Many of these products contain adhesives and sealants which are themselves made up of products containing formaldehyde. The formaldehyde liquid in these products can evaporate at room temperature and off-gas in the home from the finished product for a long time after it has been installed.
There are safety standards in place in Canada regarding the off-gassing levels of formaldehyde in these products but recent investigations have shown that formaldehyde off-gassing can still exceed these levels once installed.
This may not be due to one product exceeding the acceptable levels that they are listed as meeting, but a combination of products. Alternatively, as in the case of a recent class-action lawsuit, some products that are stamped as conforming still exceed, sometimes massively, the off-gassing levels they are quoted as meeting.
Frequently asked questions
What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a commonly used chemical compound that exists in various forms and at room temperature, is a colorless, distinctive, strong and even pungent smelling, flammable and gaseous substance. Formaldehyde has been used in a number of industries for various purposes such as: for the manufacturing of building materials – like pressed wood products (mostly as an adhesive resin), fiber board, plywood, cigarette smoke, fuel burning appliances and kerosene space heaters. Additional uses in household products include: additive for permanent –press, an ingredient in glues, and as a preservative in medical laboratories – as embalming fluid, and as a sterilizer. Since Formaldehyde is a by-product of combustion and other inherent processes, it can be found in significant concentrations and in various environments.
Is formaldehyde really dangerous?
Formaldehyde gas has been defined as a highly toxic and a confirmed human carcinogen. Even at lower exposure levels, formaldehyde gas can cause eye and nasal irritation, headaches and aggravate asthma conditions. For those who really want sleepless nights, you can read the full report on the toxicity of formaldehyde here in the 14th Report on Carcinogens. Another good source of information on the Health effects of formaldehyde can be found at the American Cancer Society website.
Where can formaldehyde be found in the home?
There are small amounts of formaldehyde in nearly all homes. However it’s when the levels rise the risks increase.
Formaldehyde levels can increase in homes with smokers or homes with new products or new construction.
Formaldehyde levels are higher in new manufactured wood products such as flooring and furniture.
Formaldehyde can also be found in some fabrics.
New products that often contain high levels of formaldehyde include:
- Wood floor finishes: Wet commercial, base- and top-coat floor finishes.
- May emit high levels of formaldehyde.
- Emissions decrease 24 hours after application.
- Finishes are not typically available to the consumer, but they can be (re-) applied by commercial floor contractors at residences or factories.
- Pressed-wood and wood-based products: Pressed-wood (i.e., hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF)) and wood-based products, especially those containing UF resins, may be a significant formaldehyde source.
- Emissions decrease 6-10 months after initial testing.
- Wallpaper and paints:
- Moderate levels of formaldehyde initially following application.
- Levels formed during the curing process may be higher than after initial application.
- Emissions are sometimes still detectable 1-3 months following application.
- Some paints are now found with low-VOC formulations.
- Combustion: Cigarette smoke and the combustion of other materials, such as wood, kerosene, oil, natural gas, and gasoline, produce formaldehyde.
- Other materials: Formaldehyde can be created from the chemical reaction between ozone and other VOCs during the use of personal computers, laser printers, and photocopiers.
- Re-emitters: Because they are porous, products, such as carpets or gypsum board, do not contain significant amounts of formaldehyde when new. However, they may trap formaldehyde that is emitted into the air from other products and later release it into the indoor air.
- Some manufactured wood products such as cabinets furniture
- plywood and particleboard (OSB/Waferboard) MDF
- Laminate flooring
- Permanent press fabrics (like those used for curtains and drapes or on furniture)
- Household products such as glues, paints, caulks, pesticides, cosmetics, and detergents.
The number of household products that contain and release formaldehyde into the home is too extensive for this post, but you can check a list of the most abundant ones in this list here.
Why haven’t you offered formaldehyde testing before?
We’ve offered formaldehyde testing for a number of years. However due to the time it takes to sample, the reliance on humidity stability, and the cost and time required for laboratory analysis we’ve found the service has been financially out of reach for the majority of residential clients.
If we were to ever be able to provide the general consumer with this sort of service we had to find another way of sampling for formaldehyde. Thankfully with modern technology, detectors, coupled with smaller, faster microprocessors, miniaturised electronics and modern packaging has provided us with real-time detectors that are accurate and relatively inexpensive to purchase outright.
Are the measurements accurate?
Our detectors use state of the art sampling devices designed in Europe and the U.S.
The Formaldehyde sensors from the U.K. are two electrode electrochemical sensors with a calibrated accuracy of around 2.5%.
Humidity changes are transient which means the system recalculates if the humidity changes, and it can copy with humidity changes of between 15% and 90% RH. This is massively better than the ChemDisk aldehyde samplers which suffer badly from high humidity, reporting much greater levels of formaldehyde than really exist.
Our chosen detectors are also accurate in the range of -100C to 400C.
Again this is better than the older lab-analysed ChemDisk units which are able to sample at normal indoor temperatures but have to be refrigerated after the sampling in order to maintain the formaldehyde captured in the sample device.
What about other indoor pollutants?
The formaldehyde sensors in the air detectors we use are screened against other airborne pollutants gasses.
The air detectors we use also have Metal-oxide silicon Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) detection capability. The Total Volatile Organic Compound (TVOC) output range for our detectors is from 0ppb to 1187ppb. Values outside this range are clipped.
In addition the detectors we selected to use have laser particulate matter sensors that allow counting of airborne particulates at both 2.5 and 10 microns in size.
The majority of mold spores are larger than 10 microns, so these detectors cannot replace our mould sampling or allergen sampling services. Our formaldehyde, TVOC particulate services can be used to augment these other IAQ services for a total air quality service.
How long does formaldehyde air sampling take?
The testing takes around 45 minutes to one hour to perform in three locations in the home with a verbal report immediately and a written report at the end of the next business day. We are able to test the locations simultaneously which keeps the time short.
Originally each test would have taken 24-48 hours to perform, with lab-analysis taking anywhere between 2 days and 2 weeks depending upon the price one wished to pay.
How much does the formaldehyde air sampling cost?
The physical badge (ChemDisk) testing methodology costs around $700 per sample. It also required 2 visits witha 24-48 hour sampling period, and was highly dependant on humidity stability. The total cost to clients for a single sample, including call-out fees came out to around $1,100. This is why we have to date advised residential customers to think before they choose this service.
Our new electronic new real-time monitoring service is $150 plus tax (with a small mileage charge to cover increased cost for clients who are over 25kms from St.Catharines.) For this small payment we will perform measurements in three areas of the home and you will get a verbal indication of the results at the end of the sampling. An electronic on-line report will be provided at the end of the following working day.
When you compare our new electronic service to the older badge/lab service that we had to use prior, you can see that the new service is now within the reach of residential customers.
Do you provide remediation services?
No. Regardless of the type of sampling we provide, whether it be Formaldehyde, TVOCs, Particulate matter, Mould, Allergens or Asbestos, we believe our sampling should be independent from the remediation process. That way we remove any possible conflict of interest. Air Sampling and remediation should ALWAYS be performed by separate, independent operators. For example, in the case of formaldehyde, if the same operator performed an air sample, said the levels were high, then came in and remediated the problem, then performed a clearance air sampling to prove we’d performed our job right, how sure would you be that everything was remediated correctly? How would you even be sure that the levels were high in the first place, or that the correct remediation tasks were carried out. We believe, having the same operator to provide sampling and remediation is akin to asking a fox to watch the henhouse.