Drager Bio-CHeck formaldehyde test kit - contact information is given in this article. Formaldehyde Gas Outgassing Tests for Laminate Flooring
Formaldehyde test methods, errors, formaldehyde exposure limits. Should you test floor products for formaldehyde? What tests are available? What will it tell you?

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Formaldehyde gas testing for laminate & other flooring products:

How to make an accurate, representative test for formaldehyde outgassing from flooring. We describe methods of testing for formaldehyde gas indoors, and we discuss possible steps to remove formaldehyde gas and formaldehyde gas emitting laminated floor or other outgassing products in order to improve indoor air quality in homes.

The Dräger Bio-Check Formaldehyde Test Kit shown at page top is discussed later in this article series.

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Tests to Make Before Taking Any Remedial Action On Suspected Flooring Formaldehyde Outgassing

Laminate and engineered wood flooring samples (C) Daniel Friedman

Is there an obvious indoor air quality emergency in your building? If you believe so, that is, if you feel unsafe, leave the building immediately and seek expert assistance.
See IAQ EMERGENCY STEPS for four actions to take in an immediate IAQ Emergency. Otherwise, read-on.

Article Series Contents

In March of 2015 in response to concerns about possible formaldehyde outgassing from Chinese-made laminate flooring sold in the United States by Lumber Liquidators, the company said that it would offer free air tests for formaldehyde to consumers who have installed laminated flooring sold by that provider. - Abrams, Rachel, The New York Times, 3/13/2015 and Lumber Liquidators "Air Quality Test Kit", retrieved 28 March 2015, link given below.

Consumers who purchased Chinese-Made laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators, will be asked for simple information that permits a retrieval of their flooring order to determine if their flooring qualifies for this free test offer. Quoting from the company's information on formaldehyde outgassing of laminate flooring,

To reassure our customers, we are providing indoor air quality testing at no cost to qualifying customers as the fastest, most effective way to measure the total level of formaldehyde in the home. The testing is being administered and the results produced by an independent, accredited lab. The customer is in control of the process, with clear instructions on the test and its results. We will conduct an in-depth evaluation of air quality and potential formaldehyde sources for any customer whose results are inconclusive or above established thresholds. Our customer care team will work with our valued customers throughout the process.

The [Lumber Liquidator] home test kits [for formaldehyde] are being provided as a step for customers with our laminate floors to help reassure them that their floor as installed is safe. Please fill out the form found at the link below to determine if your floor qualifies for the free test kit. If your floor does qualify, you will be walked through the process of ordering the test via an independent lab. - Lumber Liquidators "Air Quality Test Kit", retrieved 28 March 2015, link "FREE HOME TEST KITS from LUMBER LIQUIDATOR" is an independent publisher of building, environmental, and forensic inspection, diagnosis, and repair information for the public - we have no business nor financial connection with any manufacturer or service provider discussed at our website.

What Home Formaldehyde Tests for Flooring Outgassing Make Sense? And When?

Watch out: while properly-conducted "air test" for formaldehyde can serve as a reasonable screen about the general level of indoor formaldehyde at the time the test was conducted, without further testing one cannot conclude that formaldehyde, if detected, is coming from a specific source such as flooring. Any air test of the indoor level of a gas or particle is very much affected by test conditions such as activity of building ventilation systems, temperature, humidity, indoor air movement and other factors.

If an indoor air test for formaldehyde does suggest that action may be appropriate to get that level down, before contemplating any costly remedial action such as removing or replacing laminate flooring, consumers should consider the results of more carefully constructed tests of formaldehyde levels.

But before using your own "home test kit for formaldehyde" it is important to understand what the test can actually tell you.

An environmental professional such as a certified industrial hygienist (CIH) may point out that only a sophisticated chamber test for formaldehyde can provide an accurate measure of actual formaldehyde levels or formaldehyde outgassing from a material. But most building owners or tenants are understandably reluctant to rip out a section of their installed flooring. Sending off a sample of left-over segments of an installed floor might be informative but because of the variables we listed just above, a flooring fragment test, even if analyzed with great precision in a test chamber, cannot tell you the level of formaldehyde exposure in the building where the floor is installed.

So what might be a reasonable formaldehyde test approach for a building where Chinese-made formaldehyde-suspect laminate flooring has been installed?

  1. Test 1: Is there a hazard at all? A properly-conducted test of formaldehyde levels in your home using a reliable method and performed by someone who has enough sense to assure the test actually represents occupant-exposure would probably be made at a fixed height above the floor (typically at a height where people breathe) and under other key conditions such as controlling building ventilation and activity. The test must also note all site and building conditions that affect test outcome such as indoor temperature, humidity and other factors such as building height, air movement pathways, and level of occupancy in order to determine if there were harmful levels of formaldehyde present during the measurement interval.

    Watch out: performing a "screening test" for formaldehyde without understanding how building & test conditions can affect the results means that even using the most sophisticated test tool or device still produces an inaccurate result.

    Don't confuse precision (a number with lots of decimal places) with accuracy (how well the number actually represents the true conditions in the test area.) In my own field and forensic lab experience I've seen literally several orders of magnitude in air test results depending on very simple and usually uncontrolled building conditions such as the use or disuse of fans or the opening or closing off of fresh air cycles.

    Watch out: even if an air test of indoor formaldehyde levels in your home or office shows that the formaldehyde level is unacceptably high, you still need to identify the source of the formaldehyde before planning any action.
  2. Test 2: If there is a potential or probable formaldehyde gas problem, where is it coming from? Tests may need to be performed at more than one location: for example in the suspect Chinese-laminate-floored room and in another more remote room in the structure where other flooring products are installed. Understanding the formaldehyde sources and their probable rate of outgassing can also help predict the future formaldehyde levels in the building and thus can help you decide what actions are justified.

    Watch out: there are often multiple formaldehyde sources in a building, outgassing at different rates, over differing time periods depending on the material properties, age and other factors. Without sorting out this question of the sources of formaldehyde it could be a costly mistake to presume that removing or covering over laminate flooring is appropriate.
  3. Test 3: What is the formaldehyde exposure risk level? Since building conditions such as ventilation, temperature and humidity can vary widely over time, an expert might want to find the upper limit or bounds of possible formaldehyde hazard by performing a "worst case" formaldehyde test in your building. In other words, one might perform a "most aggressive" test of the flooring or other formaldehyde-sources in the most-suspect room(s) in the home.

    This test is intended to confirm the principal formaldehyde source(s) and to understand the possible limits of concentrations of formaldehyde that could possibly come from that source.

    This might be performed using sophisticated equipment or possibly using low-cost "ballpark-measurement" devices by collecting a sample under an enclosed cover right over the floor surface either over a specified interval. This test, performed on more than one surface or material can also confirm (or deny) that the flooring is the primary formaldehyde source.

For example, after a specified interval, say 24 hours, has been allowed to pass to permit formaldehyde gas, if present, to accumulate under an enclosed cover such as that described
at SMELL PATCH TEST to FIND ODOR SOURCE a badge-type (or other) sampling device left therein is collected for analysis to provide a basis for comparing the emissions from that surface with others in the building. The actual test duration interval necessary for an accurate measurement of formaldehyde levels varies by the test method or instrument used and ranges from minutes to 24+ hours.

Watch out: one more time: building conditions of temperature, humidity, ventilation and air movement have a significant impact on the accuracy of any measurement of any airborne substance. It is important to document and control other conditions in the building that would affect the test results, such as the use of fans, HVAC systems, or of windows & doors being opened or closed, and the overall air exchange rate or leakiness of the home.

Note that the application of this test procedure described for formaldehyde testing is not a "smell test" or "formaldehyde odor test" but rather an option for isolating possible formaldehyde offgassing sources in a building.

Do not rely on "formaldehyde smell" or odor to decide if there is a formaldehyde hazard indoors. Health hazards could be present below the threshold of people's ability to smell it. The average odor threshold for formaldehyde is 0.83 ppm, with few people being able to detect formaldehyde at levels lower than 0.5 ppm. (DeVany 2007).

Should you test for formaldehyde at all?

The three levels of formaldehyde testing explained above sound like a lot of trouble. Why can't we just plop a test kit in the home and send that off to a lab. Well you certainly can do that, or hire someone to do it. But without intelligently-gathered test data your "test result" may be little more than speculative, and there may remain a risk of making an expensive mistake such as removing a laminate floor that was not the principal formaldehyde source.

The decision to proceed with first, a screening test for indoor formaldehyde levels and second to complete diagnostic testing that identifies the source and thus helps determine what actions are needed depends on an additional set of questions. In North America Health Canada offers this position on testing homes for formaldehyde:

Testing your home for formaldehyde is generally not necessary. If you are concerned that the formaldehyde levels may be high, because of health symptoms, odours or obvious formaldehyde sources, the best step is to remove sources if possible and to increase ventilation. If you are having health symptoms, talk to a doctor, as only they can determine if the symptoms are related to your environment.

Formaldehyde testing may be available from some environmental consultants and/or industrial hygienists, although they primarily sell these services to business and may not be affordable for the average homeowner.

If for some reason sampling is deemed necessary, it is recommend to sample for 8-24 hours and to take the average formaldehyde level. The sampling method used should follow a recognized protocol such as those published by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or United States Department of Labour's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Samples should be sent to an accredited laboratory for analysis. Common accreditations include the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) or Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (CALA). - Health Canada, "Formaldehyde in Indoor Air", Health Canada . Sante Canada, retrieved 29 March 2015, original source:

Do Test for Formaldehyde If:

  1. You are facing significant costs blamed on formaldehyde outgassing: You should test for formaldehyde outgassing both as a starting screening test and if indicated from that test, you should test specific / suspect materials if you are facing a significant cost to modify a building in response to a persistent formaldehyde problem. You'll be sorry if you rip out a new laminate floor and then find that formaldehyde levels in the building are as high as before.
  2. Your Doctor recommends testing for formaldehyde exposure: You should test for formaldehyde if your doctor wants to know your exposure level to formaldehyde. (Be sure you test locations where you spend the most time, including in the workplace).

It might also be appropriate to test for formaldehyde depending on answers to the following questions

  1. Are there occupants who complain of indoor air quality issues such as chemical odors or health complaints that seem building related? The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission for Product Safety points out that
    "In pure form, even at very low concentrations of below 1 part per million (ppm), formaldehyde is a virtually colourless gas with a pungent odour." - Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, "Product Safety in Australia, Formaldehyde in Consumer Products", retrieved 29 March 2015, original source:
  2. Are there occupants who are at extra risk if they may be exposed to high levels of formaldehyde? These are questions for your doctor. Certainly where we give similar advice for mold-contaminated buildings we include in the "at risk" population people who are asthmatic, allergic, elderly, infant, or have compromised immune systems.
  3. Are there suspect materials likely to be a source of problematic levels of formaldehyde outgassing? If removing or covering such materials involves significant cost, it makes sense to confirm the presence of a formaldehyde problem traced to those materials before taking action. Or for the current topic in the blaze of media attention, does your building have a laminate-floor purchased from Lumber Liquidators and that the company agrees was among the Chinese-made products for which a formaldehyde hazard question was raised by a TV program?

    Really? Well yes and no. Lumber Liquidators, at their website, insist that their product has regularly tested well below recommended formaldehyde limits, while independent tests claimed the opposite. A key argument centers on what formaldehyde testing methods are appropriate, accurate and representative of the actual indoor environment where the flooring product is installed. We expect that further independent testing will lead to more clearly-understood information on whether or not there is a potential health hazard associated with laminate flooring such that testing is or is not merited.

Watch out: if your "IAQ expert" is going to just stop by and drop off a home test kit you may find you have to hire someone all over again to provide enough inspection and testing to both diagnose the presence of a problem and advise you what actions are needed - if any. Unfortunately it is often difficult to distinguish between real hazards and things that are scary, and regrettably it is often common for each cycle of public worry to generate an entire industry of companies profiting from that fear independently of whether the hazards are real or imagined.

Watch out as well for conflicts of interest. Do not hire an environmental consultant who has any financial relationship with a company who may perform remediation work if that is necessary or who is going to profit in any way from any remediation work that may be performed.

Do Not Test for Formaldehyde If:

  1. There are no problem indicators or triggers: Our opinion is that there is no justification to simply adopt a policy of screening every North American building of all ages, types, materials, occupancies, for formaldehyde levels.
  2. No different action be taken based on test results: Our opinion is no, don't bother testing for formaldehyde if the test results will not change the action that is to be taken. For example on noting the age and extent of formaldehyde-outgassing material it a building owner or occupant may have decided that a combination of simple ventilation and waiting for the diminution of outgassing over time is sufficient action.
  3. The testing method is not reliable: unless the screening method for formaldehyde will produce results that reliably indicate the presence or absence of an actual hazard to building occupants the test should not be conducted. This may seem obvious but it's not. As we have discussed under indoor mold contamination testing
    at MOLD CULTURE TEST KIT VALIDITY, even popular, widely sold environmental tests can be fundamentally flawed offering potential errors of both types: indicating that there is a problem when there is not one, and indicating that there is no problem when one is actually present. Either type of error can be very costly to consumers.

HCHO Formaldehyde Outgassing Testing Methods - Formaldehyde_Gas_Test_Procedures.php

At FORMALDEHYDE GAS TEST METHODS & PROCEDURES we describe the variety of testing methods are used to screen for indoor formaldehyde levels ranging from simple badge-type formaldehyde test kits to pumps and sophisticated formaldehyde gas detection meters and test chambers.

At FORMALDEHYDE GAS TEST KITS, METERS we give details about different formaldehyde test kits, tools, or instruments such as formaldehyde gas detection instruments used for testing for formaldehyde gas. There we list sources of various formaldehyde test tools, badges, home test kits etc. including the Dräger Bio-Check Formaldehyde Test Kit shown at page top.

Formaldehyde exposure limits: U.S. Federal and State Level

Formaldehyde gas (HCHO or Formalin) exposure limits & standards are given in detail

Watch out: U.S. federal government standards for permissible exposure levels of formaldehyde gas were developed for workplace safety not the home environment. There are no federal exposure standards or rules for formaldehyde exposure for end-consumers such as homeowners or occupants of commercial spaces where a formaldehyde outgassing material has been installed.

Useful References

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Continue reading at STOP LAMINATE FLOORING OUTGASSING where we discuss how to remove, avoid, or eliminate indoor formaldehyde or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.



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