“60 Minutes” Report on Formaldehyde
Aired March 1, 2015
On March 1, 2015 “60 Minutes” aired a segment on the formaldehyde levels found in a particular company’s products. This article is not about that company, but about formaldehyde.
Some might have seen the report, or heard about it, and did a quick memory check,
“Did I buy laminate flooring from company xyz?”
(Sigh of relief)
“Whew, I’m good.”
Not so fast…
Formaldehyde is classified as a “known carcinogen.” But that doesn’t make it illegal to use. Formaldehyde is in all kinds of products we take into our homes, from the no-iron coating of threads in our clothes to the glues holding wood together in our floors to the shampoos we slather in our hair.
Formaldehyde is in a LOT of products, and is used in processes most Americans probably use:
Pressed wood products
Some foam insulation types
Permanent press clothing
Combustion including tobacco products
Probably none of us are living a “formaldehyde free” life.
Formaldehyde is a “Volatile Organic Compound”, VOC, which means it is a gas at room temperature. If formaldehyde is present in a product you bring into your home, it will be released into the air.
What’s most concerning are the levels of formaldehyde trapped inside your home, your individual response to those levels, and ways to manage/limit the amount of formaldehyde our families are exposed to.
3 STRATEGIES TO REDUCE YOUR EXPOSURE TO FORMALDEHYDE
1. LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF VOCS, including formaldehyde that you bring into your home/building. This is worth pursuing, the less formaldehyde you bring in the better. Pay attention to labels! http://greenhomeguide.com/askapro/question/are-engineered-wood-products-from-decorative-flooring-llc-decor-flooring-a-low-voc-product-what-is-the-e0-grade-of-gb-t9846-1-9846-8-2004
2. INCREASE VENTILATION. Ventilation is an excellent strategy for reducing formaldehyde levels. Simply moving the air with a fan is NOT ventilation, ventilation includes removing contaminated/stale air, and replacing it with fresh air. In fact, if you blow a fan on a product, let’s say a laminate floor, as was the case of the 60 minutes episode, you may indeed increase the rate it “off gasses” the formaldehyde.
In order to effectively reduce formaldehyde, and other VOCs, you must provide a path of escape from your home/building. This is only half of the solution; you must also replace the toxic air that is being exhausted with fresher, cleaner air. This increased air exchange will reduce VOC levels throughout your entire home further protecting you from the health concerns associated with formaldehyde as well as other indoor toxins and allergens.
Another strategy would be to allow the product(s) to off gas outside of the home for a minimum of 30 days, so that contaminants don’t become concentrated to unhealthy levels inside your home, limiting the exposure to your family and pets.
3. MONITOR TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY. A reduction in temperature and humidity will reduce the off gassing of formaldehyde. The higher the temperature, and humidity, the more formaldehyde off gassing will occur. The second article cited above actually recommends using temperature and humidity to determine your personal tolerance to the product in question.
When it comes to indoor pollutants and odors, EZ Breathe has been working to reduce and eliminate odors, pollutants and allergens (including formaldehyde), since the very first unit was installed! Ventilation is our middle name!
Tim Chapin, HHS, CRMI
EZ Breathe Ventilation Systems