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Photograph of clear fungicidal sealant on building framing and subflooring How to STOP Formaldehyde Gas Outgassing From Laminate Flooring
Remedies for formaldehyde-outgassing floor materials

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How to correct outgassing of formaldehyde from laminate flooring products:

Five steps to correct unacceptable levels of formaldehyde gas traced to laminate flooring or similar floor covering products.

This article discusses 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.



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Laminate or Engineered Wood Floor Formaldehyde Out-gassing Remediation

Laminate and engineered wood flooring samples (C) Daniel FriedmanAfter we have formaldehyde test results that confirm an actionable problem traced to your particular flooring, we can discuss approaches to stop the issue, ranging from demolition and removal to use of sealants and over-layers of other flooring.

Certainly it is true that some products made using glues or chemicals that outgas formaldehyde after the sale or installation of the material can continue to do so for protracted periods. Those seem to include some particle board, cabinets, carpet padding, flooring.

Other formaldehyde-containing products such as UFFI foam building insulation (blown into homes in the 1970's in North America) appeared to release unacceptable levels of formaldehyde into the building air only if the product was improperly mixed and only for a limited time. Open-celled UFFI insulation remaining in homes today is unlikely to be a source of detectable & hazardous levels of formaldehyde.

Watch out: before doing anything to laminate or other flooring suspected of outgassing formaldehyde, be sure that the floor is the formaldehyde problem source and that action is needed.
See FORMALDEHYDE TESTS for FLOORING
and
see FORMALDEHYDE GAS SOURCES in BUILDINGS

Five Steps Towards Correcting High Indoor Formaldehyde Levels Thought to be Due to Laminate Flooring Outgassing

Options for dealing with high levels of indoor formaldehyde that has not diminished over several months after new installation of materials in a building include:

  1. Ventilation - adding fresh air ventilation to a building can make substantial improvements in indoor air quality. Combined with balanced ventilation design or a heat-exchanger fresh air system and filtration this approach addresses not just a formaldehyde or odor problem but other indoor air quality contaminants as well. Since most formaldehyde outgassing from flooring products occurs rather rapidly when the product is newly-installed, ventilation is important and perhaps the first step that one should consider in reducing an indoor formaldehyde gas complaint.

    See VENTILATION, BALANCED
    and
    see VENTILATION, WHOLE HOUSE STRATEGIES

    Watch out: increasing building ventilation may also increase the offgassing rate of formaldehyde from formaldeyde containing materials such as Chinese-produced laminate flooring because it stirs indoor air and disturbs the laminar air layer over building surfaces. While ventilation with clean fresh outdoor air will generally improve indoor air quality it is likely to provide about 60% of the theoretical improvement and depending on building age, leakiness, and cost of heating and cooling, the benefits may be a bit less and the cost a bit more. (Offermann 2009).
  2. Waiting: depending on the material that is out-gassing formaldehyde, the passage of time, combined with ventilation, may be sufficient to stop indoor formaldehyde complaints. The outgassing rates will vary widely depending on the source, with soft goods such as cloth outgassing more rapidly than laminated-sealed flooring.

    Really? Currently (May 2015) the half life of formaldehyde-outgassing flooring such as the media-attended Chinese-made laminate flooring sold in the U.S. by Lumber Liquidators, is unknown. Because laminate flooring products are typically sealed with one or more layers on either side of the MDF core (the principal formaldehyde offgassing source), the offgassing rate for installed laminate flooring may be slow (and the indoor formaldehyde levels may be correspondingly low as well).
  3. Sealing of outgassing surfaces - it may be possible to reduce or nearly eliminate detectable levels of formaldehyde from some products such as particle board by application of a suitable sealant.
    See DISINFECTANTS & SANITIZERS, SOURCES - Guide to Buying Disinfectants, Fungicidal Sealants, Sprays, Biocides used on or in Buildings
    Or
    see MOLD SPRAYS, SEALANTS, PAINTS

    Really? This approach is not likely to be considered practical for installed laminate flooring or other materials that would be costly and disruptive to remove except in cases where high levels of formaldehyde offgassing have been traced to those sources and other remedies are not successful.
  4. Covering of outgassing surfaces - a special case of "sealing" just cited may be the installation of a new layer of flooring over a laminate floor that owners don't want to remove, using a combination of sealant, underlayment, and new flooring materials. Keep in mind that any build-up of flooring or walls (treating paneling for example) may create a trip hazard at doorways (uneven floor levels) or a need to build out interior window and door trim.
  5. Removal of the source material - be sure you've correctly identified the formaldehyde source as often measurements are confused by consumers who may assume that one product is the formaldehyde source only to discover after its removal that the problem remains because they left a different formaldehyde gas source in place. In most cases removal of flooring is unnecessary, inappropriate, and would be a last resort.

    "The Composite Wood Products Regulation establishes emission standards at levels intended to protect public health. We believe most laminate flooring and engineered wood flooring labeled as complying with California’s formaldehyde emission standards (i.e., CARB Phase 2) meets those standards.

    However some flooring products may have been falsely labeled. Various studies have shown that laminated and engineered flooring and sealed surfaces and edges reduce the emissions from the platform materials and that the emissions generally decrease as the product ages. 

    As a general rule, we do not recommend removing a flooring product unless there are noticeable health effects (i.e. nose and throat irritation, a burning sensation of the eyes, wheezing, and difficulty in breathing), and other measures (see below) taken to alleviate them have failed and there is good reason to believe the flooring is the source of the problem.
    " - Californian Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (CARB), 03/03/2015, http://www.arb.ca.gov/html/fact_sheets/composite_wood_flooring_faq.pdf
  6. Temperature & Humidity - increasing indoor temperature and humidity can speed the offgassing of formaldehyde from building products and it is likely to result in higher measurements of indoor formaldehyde levels. Some building consultants have experimented with attempting to "bake-out" formaldehyde outgassing sources indoors.

    Watch out: We have not found an authoritative source recommending pushing up indoor temperature or humidity as a means of speeding the curing of new indoor materials and thus as a means of ultimately reducing the indoor formaldehyde level.

    Kim (2005) however reported significant reductions of the formaldehyde outgassing of laminate floors heated by sub-floor heating systems in Korea; similar effects might be obseved in other countries where under-floor or radiant-floor heating is installed. Kim concluded that in Korean homes, as furniture using MDF was not heated to the same level as laminate flooring, the furniture remained the more significant source of indoor formaldehyde.

    For occupied buildings where there is a known or suspected formaldehyde offgassing problem, the California Air Resources Board has written some helpful advice of which the bottom line is that consumers should use increased fresh air ventilation combined with keeping indoor temperatures and relative humidity low to both exhaust formaldehyde gases and at the same time so as to reduce the rate of formaldehyde offgassing.

    "Proper ventilation, such as opening up windows, bringing fresh air through a central ventilation system, and running exhaust fans will expedite formaldehyde off-gassing from finished goods in your home as well as the odors from any finishes such as varnish or lacquer. Extended ventilation may be needed.

    Keeping indoor temperatures and humidity low, such as by using an air conditioner and/or dehumidifier to draw the moisture out of the air when humid, may help decrease the amount of formaldehyde that off-gasses into the indoor air
    ." - Californian Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (CARB), 03/03/2015
  7. Other Formaldehyde reduction measures:
    see FORMALDEHYDE GAS HAZARD REDUCTION
    and
    see WHEN SHOULD YOU TEST for FORMALDEHYDE

Sources of Formaldehyde Gas in buildings

This section has moved. Please
see FORMALDEHYDE GAS SOURCES in BUILDINGS

At FORMALDEHYDE HAZARDS we report that formaldehyde is a ubiquitous volatile organic compound (VOC) that occurs in nature and is widely used in building products, finishes, and furnishings because of its desirable properties and low cost. Nearly all products made with formaldehyde outgas to some extent, but only a few contribute significantly to indoor air problems.

Formaldehyde Article Series Contents

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