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Formaldehyde Testing

Formaldehyde Testing

[or – before you tear up that floor…!]

If you have concerns that you may have elevated levels of formaldehyde [especially due to new construction or flooring] in your home please consider the following before you take action:

First, some basic facts about formaldehyde:

What is formaldehyde?

At room temperature, formaldehyde is a colorless gas that sometimes has a noticeable odor. It is a chemical substance commonly used in the manufacture of building materials and numerous household products.

Although it has some similar traits [such as ‘off-gassing’], formaldehyde stands independent and is generally not classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC). Formaldehyde is classified as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) by the EPA.

Why test first?

To start with, you need to know if a problem even exists! Obviously there are known, established concerns and health risks regarding elevated levels of formaldehyde. However, new ‘product’ or materials do not automatically mean you have a problem.  In addition, formaldehyde emissions are highest when products are new and diminish over time so the longer a product has been in place, the lower the levels of formaldehyde likely to be emitted.

So… before you tear out that new floor, test the air quality- either you will confirm a condition and proceed accordingly, or hopefully save the effort and expense of undoing what you’ve done!

How do you test for it?

We always recommend having trained professionals perform the sampling and laboratory analysis for accuracy both in measurement and interpreting the results.

There are “Do-it-yourself” measuring devices available, but please be aware that these can only provide a “ball park” estimate for the formaldehyde level in the area.

Where does it come from?

Again, Formaldehyde is a chemical. The most significant sources of formaldehyde in homes are:

  • Resins used in the manufacture of composite wood products (i.e., hardwood plywood, particle board and medium-density fiberboard)
  • Building materials and insulation
  • Household products [glues, permanent press fabrics, paints, coatings, lacquers & finishes, paper products]
  • Preservatives used in some medicines, cosmetics, other consumer products such as dishwashing liquids and fabric softeners
  • Fertilizers and pesticides
  • It is a byproduct of combustion and certain other natural processes, and so is also found in emissions from un-vented, fuel burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters. Automobile exhaust from cars without catalytic converters
  • Cigarettes and other tobacco products


For more info – contact us at info@homeairfacts.com.  We’re happy to help!

I Am Trying to Track An Odor But it Keeps Going Away!

I’ve been living in the same house for years and suddenly there is an odor I can’t identify… it was never there before…!

I’ve been living in a home for 6 months – I knew there were odors [such as fresh paint or building materials] but they should’ve ‘gone away by now’…

There is a musty odor from my basement that always seems to get worse [even unbearable] at certain times of the year…

When it comes to the topic of odors [especially hard to track or identify ones] a major condition that is not often considered seriously is the effect of humidity on our living space. It affects our personal health and comfort. It also has a significant, even dramatic, affect on household odor problems. And realistically, the ‘issue’ will increase rather than decrease as buildings continue to become ‘tighter’ and more ‘contaminants’ are introduced to and held in our living space.

This is not to imply that humidity itself is an odor source, but rather, that there are certain types of odors that seem to manifest themselves more readily as humidity increases. And there are a couple of reasons for this:

• The odor is caused from a gas substance [such as methane / sewer gas / VOC’s] that have a consistency that is lighter than air. These substances, while they may be present all along may be ‘above’ us. Humidity, making the air ‘heavy’ will draw those odors down into our breathing space.

• Some substances that are in a dust / particulate state [such as mold] tend to be ‘dormant’ or ‘inert’ in drier air, but become ‘active’ when moisture is added. Mold spores for instance can be a respiratory irritant while in a particulate state but once moisture starts to ‘feed’ it, will begin to show visible growth and off-gas mildew or musty odors [a great example is basement odors in the summer vs. winter]

• There are also odors that are bacterial in nature that appear to ‘reactivate’ when moisture is added! This is the case with animal related odors [such as a rodent nest in a wall, or pet urine].

Many of these intrusive odors can take an extremely long time to dissipate on their own. And because they manifest and subside with humidity changes they can be very frustrating to track down. Knowing how moisture and humidity can play a role in this problem can help you figure it out. Is there evidence of surface moisture? Wetness stains from condensation or wetness wicking in? Is the odor more prominent during or after rain? Or on a humid vs dry day? If you are using a dehumidifier does the odor return when it is not in use?

Remember: a dehumidifier does not remove odors, it simply removes the moisture that feeds them. Cleaning a carpet does not always treat or reach the padding or flooring beneath it. Odors that are related to gas substances [especially when lighter than air] are almost never ‘detected’ near the actual source of the odor.

Part of the trick to track down your mystery odor is not to just find what it is, but to also rule out what it isn’t. Take into account the environmental factors, and look for patterns in the ways and times the odor is most noticeable to you and that should help narrow down your search. If it continues to elude you, reach out to us at info@homeairfacts.com. We’d be happy to help!

Who We Are

Welcome to Residential Air Quality, the premier air quality specialists throughout the Greater Boston area. We are a family business [based in Wellesley] serving communities across the region. We believe that looking after your family’s well-being is the most important thing in the world. Ensuring clean, breathable indoor air quality is more than simply providing peace of mind. No matter your concern or service requirement, we are experts on all aspects of residential indoor air quality. While this includes mold inspections, it encompasses so much more as we specialize in detecting, measuring and identifying allergens and other airborne contaminants.

We are proud of our family orientated work ethics and believe in dealing with people and not figures. If you would like our assistance, please reach out to us. Indoor air quality is our business but service is our priority.

“If it isn’t Mold, then what is it?”

It is this very question that sets us apart!

In the early days of our company growth it was anticipated that mold testing would be a primary focus for us. And for many it still is. Testing is performed, and mold is either going to be detected [and addressed] or not detected and the residence can ‘rule it out’ as a problem.

In our case, however, a significant number of calls we received were from clients who had greater concerns: perhaps a family member suffering from allergies… or an environment where they actually felt ‘better’ physically when away from their home… or an odor or physical ‘sensitivity’ they just couldn’t put their finger on… when we found that a residence did not have a mold condition we were often asked “Well if it isn’t mold, then what is it”? [and we really hated not having an answer…!]

As it became our determination to be known as “Air Quality Inspectors”, not just “mold testers”, we increased our training and knowledge base, widened our awareness of the industry and expanded our testing capabilities to address as many home air quality conditions and concerns as we found existed. And WOW! There certainly is no shortage of them!

This blog is dedicated to sharing some of the experiences, findings, updates, new discoveries and tips & tricks to successfully improve the quality of the atmospheres in your home. If you have any questions, concerns or even experiences where you successfully conquered an air quality issue, let us know!

And please keep checking back with us – you may be surprised at the variety of issues we come across!