Formaldehyde can get into the air in different ways. A common source is the use of formaldehyde-containing materials in building interiors, such as building materials, furniture and paper. Pollutant emissions from internal combustion engines, for example in cars or when burning heating oil or tobacco, can also lead to the release of formaldehyde.
Certain cleaning agents and disinfectants also contain formaldehyde or can release formaldehyde during use. However, the most common sources are building materials. Accelerate while doing so warm and humid conditions the release of formaldehyde additionally. So especially when people stay longer indoors.
High levels of formaldehyde in the air can be harmful to health and lead to respiratory irritation, headaches and other health problems. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde can increase the risk of certain types of cancer, especially nose and throat cancer.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified formaldehyde as a possible human carcinogen. In the United States, formaldehyde has been classified as a carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). In Europe, formaldehyde has been classified as carcinogenic by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
It is important to minimize exposure to formaldehyde in the air to reduce the risk of health problems. For example, avoiding materials with a high formaldehyde content, ventilating rooms and using air purifiers can contribute to this.
Possible sources of formaldehyde can be furniture, wall coverings, panelling, chipboard, plywood, disinfectants, cleaning products, cosmetics or tobacco smoke. However, chipboard in walls, floors and furniture, where formaldehyde is contained in various compounds in the glue resin, is often responsible for increased concentrations in living areas.
Since air pollutants are invisible, tracking down the source of the pollutant can be complicated. In the past, indoor air experts were needed to help those affected with their search. In the meantime, however, self-tests can also be purchased commercially, which bring a high degree of certainty. We compared several tests and found that in many cases a rapid test is sufficient.
In the following video, the team from „W like to know“ an indoor air expert on the hunt for sources of pollutants in a young family.
Prevention: When buying, make sure that chipboard has been awarded the environmental angel. This marks formaldehyde-free products. When buying furniture, ask about the classification of the chipboard used. Seal cuts or drill holes, as formaldehyde can escape at these points.
Testing: There's quick and easy Testing with which an object, building material or material can be examined for formaldehyde vapors. We have here in following article four in the test products compared with each other.
Refurbishment: Objects that are suspected of releasing a lot of formaldehyde into the air should be removed from the apartment, eg older chipboard furniture. If entire walls or floors are made of chipboard, a building surveyor should be consulted about the possibilities of sealing or installing vapor barriers. The irritating effects disappear once the formaldehyde exposure stops. Unlike other harmful chemicals, formaldehyde does not accumulate in the human body.
In principle, everyone can measure formaldehyde themselves. In order to get certainty yourself, there are quick tests which show the presence of formaldehyde through a color change (indicator tests). There are also electrical sensors that can provide information about formaldehyde. Laboratory tests are also available for third party verification. A legally „waterproof“ However, measurement is only possible with an expert who professionally conducts the measurement and sampling on site or carries it out himself. In most cases, indicator tests are sufficient as a guide, as they can be laid out at different points and thus enable high local resolution.
If you want to get more information about the methods and solutions for measuring the concentration of formaldehyde, you can in the article 4 Formaldehyde Tests Compared | Test kit or indoor air analysis? | You should know that read more.