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The Dangerous Chemical Hiding in Your Air: Formaldehyde

Posted in Air Quality, on November 22, 2017

For those concerned with their indoor air quality, there are so many different terms, words, and chemicals that it get very confusing for the consumer. For some people, learning what and where these things can be found in your home, and if they have adverse affects on your indoor air quality can be a job in and of itself - so, faced with an insurmountable amount of learning to do, many people turn away.

At SafeAir, we pride ourselves on educating our clients about indoor air quality and making sure that people know what may be dangerous in their home, as well as how to fix it. Today we’re profiling one of the biggest indoor air quality pollutants: formaldehyde. What is formaldehyde and why is it bad for my indoor air quality? If you remember it from high-school biology, the only thing that may come to mind about formaldehyde is preserved creatures floating in glass jars - which doesn’t seem to have much to do with your indoor air quality or home.  However, its science class usage gives you a clue to why it may be in your home and indoor air quality.

Formaldehyde is a common chemical that exists in various forms (liquid or gas) and is, at room temperature, a colourless, pungent smelling gas. It is used in a variety of industries as a glue or disinfectant, but the main usage that concerns our indoor air quality is in the home building materials industry. Formaldehyde is used extensively as an adhesive for carpets and plywood, insulation, fuel burning appliances, and space heaters. Even some personal items, like paper towels, shampoos, nail polishes and lipsticks can contain formaldehyde.

Because of some of its exceptional preservation properties, it’s not a chemical that can be easily replaced. However, there is growing evidence to suggest that formaldehyde in our indoor air quality and indoor environments can make us very sick. Formaldehyde is a suspected human carcinogen, and has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory tests on rats.

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring part of the environment, but when its levels reach unsafe proportions in our indoor air quality, it can begin to cause health trouble. Common symptoms associated with formaldehyde in your indoor air quality include: watery eyes, burning of the nose, eyes, and throat, coughing or wheezing, nausea, and skin irritation. You may have read about formaldehyde and laminate flooring or had an experience with a newly installed product in your home giving off a curious scent.

Formaldehyde easily evaporates into your indoor air quality, and with new products or materials in your home, it can be quite noticeable. While it should dissipate over time, formaldehyde can build up in a home’s indoor air quality and may cause trouble for sensitive or chronically ill people.

If you’ve recently renovated or moved and are concerned about formaldehyde in your home, having your indoor air quality tested with SafeAir can give you peace of mind. Our comprehensive indoor air quality testing will look at the whole picture, ensuring that other potential problems or risks are identified early. While extreme formaldehyde build-up is noticeable, smaller levels may go undetected by the human nose, so it’s important to have a professional indoor air quality test to ensure your home is clear.

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