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Formaldehyde and Your Home

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After CBS’s 60-minutes report released news in 2015 that Lumber Liquidators and possibly other brands of laminate hardwood flooring had higher than regulated levels of formaldehyde, the issue of formaldehyde in homes became a concern for many homeowners. So what do we know a year later? The EPA has set standards for how much formaldehyde can be in a product. Unfortunately at least one manufacturer claimed it was common practice to label their products as being in compliance with safe levels when they knew their products had higher levels than were considered safe for people.

Today formaldehyde is still commonly used in building materials. It can be found in flooring, walls, cabinets and furniture or other building materials that used pressed wood and particleboard.

At high levels, formaldehyde can affect your health. Children, pets and the elderly are especially susceptible to the effects of formaldehyde exposure, which according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) can include sore throat, coughing, scratchy eyes and nosebleeds. People with asthma or breathing conditions are also susceptible to greater problems from exposure. The CDC goes on to warn that formaldehyde can cause cancer, including nose and throat cancer. It has not yet been determined what levels of formaldehyde cause cancer or how long a person needs to be exposed to it to be harmed. The longer the exposure and the higher the levels of formaldehyde, the greater the odds you will get cancer.

Does your home have high levels of formaldehyde? If you live in warm, tropical climates beware that formaldehyde levels increase in heat and humidity. Newer homes are more likely to have higher levels than older homes because formaldehyde breaks down over time.

Airing out your home is one inexpensive way of clearing out formaldehyde gas from the home. Another inexpensive way to test for levels of formaldehyde in your home is through an air quality test. While you can have laminate floors tested, the cost is often prohibitive for single family homeowners.

If you are buying a new home, ask the homeowner what documentation they have on laminate wood floors or other laminate wood products. Ask if they are aware of any problems with those products or if they have ever had concerns about formaldehyde in the home. A regular home inspection will not test for formaldehyde in the home but they can most likely direct you to someone who can test the air quality for you.

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