Formaldehyde in Buildings-a Health Concern?

Formaldehyde in Buildings and Homes – a Health Concern?
*by Transworld News *


Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas that is widely used in the building industry, as an adhesive in many consumer products, including plywood, particle board, carpet and upholstery. Many travel trailers are widely composed of these products. Because of the materials used in their construction, mobile homes and travel trailers have long been known to contain higher levels of formaldehyde, particularly when they are new, and there is a lot of “off-gassing” of formaldehyde. Over time the levels of formaldehyde in these products normally decrease as “off-gassing” occurs.
Formaldehyde (HCHO) is considered a strong irritant and potent sensitizer. Inhalation of large amount of HCHO can cause severe irritation of the upper respiratory tract and death. Data from human exposures indicate that exposure to large concentrations of HCHO gas may lead to pulmonary edema. Even HCHO gas present in the workroom at concentrations of 1 to 11 ppm can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation. Formaldehyde has the potential to cause cancer in humans. .
Sources of formaldehyde in the home include building materials, pressed wood products (hardwood plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard) and furniture made with these pressed wood products. Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI). Combustion sources and environmental tobacco smoke. Durable press drapes, other textiles, and glues.
What does CDC say about Formaldehyde?
Back in march of 2008, Dr. Julie Gerberding, the Director of the CDC held a press conference to announce the results of new formaldehyde tests on occupied trailers. Dr. Gerberding said the tests provided a snapshot of formaldehyde levels in FEMA trailers that helped the CDC “understand and confirm what we suspected all along,” she said, “that in some of these situations the formaldehyde levels are high enough where there could be a health hazard to the people who are living there.” Because formaldehyde levels are likely to rise in the summer as the heat and humidity increase the CDC made that those in trailers “be relocated to safer, permanent housing as quickly as possible, and certainly before the warm summer months arrive, because we want people to be as safe as they can possibly be

Health Effects:
Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. There is evidence that some people can develop sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans. Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions. May cause cancer. May also cause other effects listed under “organic gases.”
Concentration levels:



0.5 to 2 ppm

eyes, nose and throat irritation
3 to 5 ppm

tearing of the eyes
10 to 20 ppm

difficult breathing, nose and throat burning, cough, heavy tearing of the eyes
25 to 30 ppm

severe respiratory tract injury
100 ppm

immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH)

Monitoring for Formaldehyde:

Indoor air quality is a very site-specific issue and should be monitored as such. Some factors affecting the frequency of monitoring and the types of testing employed are size, location, occupant characterization, activity level and categorization, and, of course, complaints logged.

Typical commercial space monitoring occurs monthly or quarterly, while residential monitoring may be done on a seasonal basis. Any real estate, commercial and or residential, that is being bought or sold should be evaluated.

How can I measure Formaldehyde?

Vapor monitor badges, such as the Formaldehyde Screen Check (FOSC), have been used over 25 years by VA, Armed Forces, many health care facilities, and by some of the largest industrial corporations throughout the world as well as consumers

The **Formaldehyde Screen Check (FOSC) **monitoring benefits include:

  • Can be used to measure personal exposure or room exposure in homes, businesses or industry

  • Easy to use and inexpensive

  • Data validated for accuracy

  • Analyzed by a AIHA accredited lab

  • Meets OSHA accuracy Requirements

  • Patented product (badges)

  • Written report
    Where can I purchase the Formaldehyde Screen Check (FOCS)?
    The Formaldehyde Screen Check can be purchased at a number of distributors nationally such as Ferguson, Carrier Air Conditioning, Victors Distributors, Yandle-Witherspoon Supply or on-line at or call toll free 1-800-422-7873 ext 303.</SPAN>
    Additional IAQ Screen Check products are available: Mold Screen Check, Fiberglass Screen Check, Dust Mite Screen Check, Organic Vapor Screen, FAST Screen Check, RAPID Screen Check, and Allergen Screen Check among others.
    Who Should Use Formaldehyde Screen Check (FOSC) ?

  • Real Estate Professionals

  • Insurance Claim Adjusters

  • Industrial Hygienists

  • Homeowners

  • HVAC Engineers

  • Building Managers

  • Facility Managers

  • Facility Operators

  • Architects

  • Government Officials

  • Engineers

  • County, City, and State Officials

  • Building Maintenance Supervisors

  • Test and Balance Professionals

  • Educators

  • School and Plant Operators

  • Hospital Engineers

  • Physicians
    About the company:

Founded in 1984 by Alan Wozniak, President/CEO in what began as a small mechanical contracting business has grown into an award winning, industry leading indoor environmental quality (IEQ) service company serving many fortune 500 corporations, school boards, county, city, state and federal governments and consumers across the US. The firm has serviced over 500 million square feet of indoor environments in over 10,000 facilities. Clients include: Walt Disney World, Siemens Controls, Johnson Controls, Carrier Corporation, Jones, Lang LaSalle, CB Richard Ellis, General Services Administration (GSA), FAA among many others.

Today, Pure Air Control Services offers comprehensive IEQ services including:

  • Building Sciences - Forensic level IEQ investigations, expert testimony and project management

  • Building Health Check - economical IAQ building evaluations

  • Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab) - AIHA accredited environmental microbiology laboratory - the only Florida lab accredited in mycology, bacteriology, and microscopy.

  • IAQ Screen Check/evalu-aire products - do-it-yourself screen testing product available directly to consumers and is also available through distributors

  • Building Remediation Sciences (BRS) - HVAC system cleaning and Mold remediation

  • **IAQ Learning Institute **- IAQ training via webinars and in-class programs