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Formaldehyde Testing in Ocala, FL

 

Formaldehyde — what is it?

Just bought some new furniture, or did a home renovation? Feeling sick or allergic in your new house or new car?

 

Fear for Formaldehyde in your nail polish products? Formaldehyde exists in most of furniture’s and building materials made with pressed wood or partial board. Researchers found that Formaldehyde exposure is associated with nasal cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer, and possibly with leukemia. In 1995, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that formaldehyde is a probable human carcinogen.

 How does formaldehyde affect my health?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas that is emitted into the air.  Inhaling air containing low levels of formaldehyde can cause burning and watery eyes. As levels increase, it causes burning in the eyes and throat, nausea, fatigue and difficulty in breathing. High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. The amount released is greatest when a product is new, and decreases over time. Formaldehyde is released more readily at warm temperatures and high humidity. Some people may be more sensitive to formaldehyde than others and experience negative effects at concentrations lower than expected. Conversely, others may not be bothered by its presence at all. One possible reason for this is that the type of formaldehyde used in exterior grade products is often phenol formaldehyde-based which has lower emissions. Also, during new construction, there is plenty of ventilation as the building is generally sitting open to the environment for much of the time. Once it becomes enclosed, however, the situation changes immediately. Off-gassing begins to be noticed as soon as the doors and windows are closed, the temperature begins to approach 72 degrees and humidity levels climb above 50%. As off-gassing continues for months and years, the emissions decrease significantly which is why many older homes don't smell as bad as newer homes. However, formaldehyde can be temporarily trapped beneath carpet or behind walls and, when re-exposed during a renovation, continue to off-gas. This can also occur from water-based paints or finishes which can reactivate the surface of older painted walls; formaldehyde can then once again begin to leach out through the surface.

Formaldehyde and Cancer:

 Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling gas that is used to manufacture building materials and produce many household products. Formaldehyde sources in the home include nail polish products, pressed wood products, cigarette smoke, and fuel-burning appliances. When exposed to formaldehyde, some individuals may experience various short-term health effects. Formaldehyde has been classified as a human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Research studies of workers exposed to formaldehyde have suggested an association between formaldehyde exposure and cancers of the nasal sinuses, nasopharynx, and brain, and possibly leukemia.

Animal studies have shown increased nasal cancers in rats and mice exposed to high levels of formaldehyde for a long time. Because of this and other studies, the EPA has classified formaldehyde as a "probable" human carcinogen (cancer causing agent). This means there is enough evidence that formaldehyde causes cancer in animals, but not enough evidence that it causes cancer in humans. According to the Formaldehyde Council (formaldehyde.org/resources/scientific studies/) after two decades of extensive research, they found no convincing evidence of increased risk of cancer due to exposure of formaldehyde. However, "In 1992, formaldehyde was formally listed by the Air Resources Board as a Toxic Air Contaminant in California with no safe level of exposure. Health risks from total daily average formaldehyde exposures in California from all sources are estimated to range from 86 to 231 excess cancer cases per million for adults, and from 23 to 63 excess cancer cases per million for children" - Source: California Environmental Protection Agency - Air Resource Board - Fact Sheet

"Composite wood products contain urea formaldehyde (UF), which is a known carcinogen. UF is also designated as a toxic air contaminant (TAC) in California with no safe level of exposure, and state law requires ARB to take action to reduce human exposure to TAC s." - Source: California Air Resources Board, CARB, Fact sheet on Proposed Airborne Toxic Control Measure for Composite Wood Products, July 2006

Clearly there are some major differences of opinion on this matter.  The debate about the effects of formaldehyde emissions may go on for many more years, but numerous organizations have come to their own conclusions about what are the acceptable levels of formaldehyde emissions (see below).

Formaldehyde emission limits: new regulations

Formaldehyde is an extensively regulated material. On July, 2010 President Obama signed a law that will limit formaldehyde levels in composite wood. This new federal Formaldehyde Standard for Composite Wood Act effectively sets national emission standards at 0.09 parts per million (ppm) by January 1, 2013.Although formaldehyde is emitted into the air as an invisible gas, it can be measured in terms of parts per million or grams per liter. Don't be fooled: eco-friendly products claiming zero formaldehyde

There are some companies now claiming to have zero formaldehyde in their products. How can this be possible if formaldehyde is naturally occurring in almost everything?  The answer is, it can't. As a case in point, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows labels to advertise products as "fat free" or "sugar free" or "calorie free" when, in fact, the food has less than .5 grams of fat, sugar or calories. Therefore, the claim needs to be understood to mean: no "added" urea formaldehyde. This means that the product may contain some natural formaldehyde but the manufacturer has not added any urea formaldehyde to the adhesives or binders. It contributes no additional pollutants into our environment.

 Why are there different standards?

Why doesn't everyone agree on what constitutes a safe level of formaldehyde? These are valid questions. The standards shown above have evolved over time through different organizations based on their own testing and experience. Clearly, the direction of acceptable limits has been decreasing yearly as more research is done and more negative experience with formaldehyde is brought to light. In addition, progressive manufacturers are pushing the envelope by developing products with lower levels of formaldehyde. Don't be fooled: eco-friendly products claiming zero formaldehyde. There are some companies now claiming to have zero formaldehyde in their products. How can this be possible if formaldehyde is naturally occurring in almost everything?  The answer is, it can't. As a case in point, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows labels to advertise products as "fat free" or "sugar free" or "calorie free" when, in fact, the food has less than .5 grams of fat, sugar or calories. Therefore, the claim needs to be understood to mean: no "added" urea formaldehyde. This means that the product may contain some natural formaldehyde but the manufacturer has not added any urea formaldehyde to the adhesives or binders. It contributes no additional pollutants into our environment.

 

Here are some tips to reduce or remove formaldehyde off-gassing or any

VOCs in your home or office?

Prevention: avoid products made with formaldehyde or VOCs especially if you are chemically sensitive, pregnant or have newborn babies.

Prevention: if you can't avoid them, use phenol based formaldehydes if possible.

Control: use sealers such as AFM SafeSeal or AFM HardSeal on interior or exterior surfaces that contain formaldehyde in order to seal in off-gassing BEFORE the walls and floors are enclosed

Control: ventilate through windows, fans and heaters

Control: purify the air with HEPA filters or filters that absorb gasses such as IQ Air or oxidize gasses such as Royal Air.

Common sense: purchase cabinetry, flooring, paints and carpeting that contain no added urea formaldehyde and have zero VOC's.


Foods known to contain naturally-occurring formaldehyde in mg./kg

Apple

6.3 – 22.3

Apricot

9.5

Banana

16.3

Bulb vegetables (e.g. onion)

11

Cabbage

5.3

Carrot

6.7-10

Cucumber

2.3 -3.7

Pear

38.7 - 60

Potato

19.5

Spinach

3.3 – 7.3

Tomato

5.7 13.3

Watermelon

9.2

Shiitake mushroom dried

100-406

Beef

4.6

Pig

5.8-20

Sheep

8

Poultry

2.5-5.7

Processed meats (incl ham & sausage)

< 20.7

Goat's Milk

1

Cow's Milk

< 3.3

Cheese

< 3.3

Cod

4.6 -34

Shrimp

1-2.4

Squid

1.8

Alcoholic beverage

.02-3.8

Soft drinks

8.7

Brewed coffee

3.4-4.5

Instant coffee

10-16

Syrup

<1-1.54

 

 

Sources:

World Health Organization and others as cited