Thursday, April 9, 2015

Testing for Formaldehyde in Flooring

by Dale Arter

All too often, news shows report that, yet again, another potentially harmful substance has been found in or around our homes.  After the recent ’60 Minutes’ report on formaldehyde in flooring, many people are wondering if the air in their homes is safe.

Since no one wants to wait until it’s too late, many people are taking hasty actions they may later regret – like ripping out their flooring.  However, there are a lot of factors to consider before you decide to tear apart your home.

First, formaldehyde concentration is the amount of formaldehyde in the air in a specific area. If you have more material in a room which can emit formaldehyde, the concentration can go up. Good ventilation circulates fresh air in the room and reduces the formaldehyde concentration.  If you have concerns about the levels of formaldehyde in your home you can purchase home testing kits from a variety of websites. That raises the question: what do you do if you find levels above those considered safe, as defined by local, state or other jurisdictional requirements? More testing could be required to determine if the chemical is from the flooring or another material, since there are a number of possible formaldehyde releasing culprits that can affect the air quality found in your home, such as:
  • Wallpaper
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Combustion – such as burning wood in a fireplace or using a kerosene heater
  • Some wrinkle – free fabrics in clothes, furniture and curtains
  • Nail polish, nail polish removers and hair-styling products
  • Wood products, wood stains and certain resins
Formaldehyde Large ChamberYou can send samples of the flooring or other suspect material to an accredited lab for independent testing. These tests are normally performed in a climate controlled laboratory with a special formaldehyde testing chamber (some are small scale chambers, while others can be quite large). The testing of these materials is done according to guidelines that have been set out by the American Society for Testing and Materials in standards ASTM E1333 and ASTM D6007.

Government agencies have been taking note of the evidence supporting formaldehyde-related issues, and many are taking action, including the California Air Resource Board (CARB). On January 1, 2009 CARB passed regulations limiting formaldehyde emissions. The California Airborne Toxic Control Measure to Reduce Formaldehyde Emissions from Composite Wood Products (CA93120) is often referred to as “CARB Requirements” and is concerned with any composite wood products sold in California.  Their approach to regulating this is to start with the manufacturer, but put responsibility on every entity which handles the composite wood from manufacture to the retail.  CA93120 talks about importers, distributers, fabricators and retailers, and many companies take on several of these rolls.  For the most part, these importers, distributers, fabricators and retailers are pass through entities, which means they don’t do anything to the material which would affect the formaldehyde emissions of the composite wood product.  However, they still need to be able to demonstrate the material is compliant with CA93120.  California’s ATCM is the foundation for the EPA’s 2010 Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act which places limits on formaldehyde emissions on a national level (For more information on the CARB Requirements, you can read NTA’s previous blog, "Lumber Liquidators and Formaldehyde"). If you own a manufactured home, it may reassure you to know manufactured housing regulations have had emission levels set since 1985!

The bottom line is this: you have testing options to discover if there is formaldehyde in your home – from home test kits, to accredited and independent laboratory testing. NTA has a nationally recognized, accredited testing laboratory which tests flooring samples in both large and small scale tests. If you are interested in having your wood flooring checked for formaldehyde emissions in a chamber, contact us today.

This post was originally shared on Polymer Solutions blog in a collaborative effort to help answer questions regarding formaldehyde.

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