Formaldehyde and Radon (A Tale of Two Gases)
July 2017: by Susan Browne Rosenberg, CIH, CHMM and Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant (expired 02/2020)
President of Desert Cities Indoor Air, LLC https://dcindoorair.com
It has long been known that toxic air contaminants such as formaldehyde, and solvents such as acetone, toluene and benzene, can build up in the indoor environment when there is poor ventilation, especially in closed-up “energy efficient” buildings. I wrote a blog last July on Indoor Air and the ability of plants to clean volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) from your indoor air.
Formaldehyde has been in the news often in recent years. Probably the first time most Americans learned about formaldehyde exposure was after Hurricane Katrina. Remember the FEMA trailers? It turned out that formaldehyde was out-gassing from materials and glues in the hastily built trailers. That gas caused occupants to experience headaches and nausea. There was a large class action lawsuit settlement.
Then in 2015, we learned about alleged elevated formaldehyde in laminate flooring made in China. There was another flurry of formaldehyde testing this time across all of America. The latest from Lumber Liquidators is that their flooring is safe. If you have concerns about flooring made in China, contact the manufacturer of the product.
Formaldehyde is an odorous gas that might be found in new buildings. It is used in embalming in mortuaries. It may also be found in cosmetics and insulation. The EPA has advice on their website on how to protect your family.
If you want to test your home, you can order a test kit from Galson Laboratories (888-432-5227). I suggest ordering several of them if you want to figure out where the gas is coming from. If you have laminate flooring in only one or two rooms, you could test those rooms and rooms without the flooring. This would show whether there are different levels of the gas in the areas of concern. Of course, the doors and windows of all rooms would need to be closed during the testing period which can be from 24 hours to 7 days.
I occasionally get asked about radon gas in our area. According to the California Department of Public Health,
“Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. You can’t see radon. And you can’t smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home. Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe. It can get into any type of building—homes, offices, and schools—and result in a high indoor radon level. You and your family are most likely to get your greatest exposure at home, where you spend most of your time. Radon has been found in every county in California. Every Californian is encouraged to test their home. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. According to EPA estimates, exposure to radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, more than drunk driving, household falls, drowning, or home fires.”
This sounds ominous if you live in an area built on rocks. Fortunately for desert residents, our homes are primarily built on sand, and therefore radon is not found here in elevated levels. The link below is to a wesite where you can look up your zip code and see the radon test results done in your area. For 92211 in Palm Desert, there were 15 tests completed and none exceeded the EPA level of concern. If you live in an area of concern, contact a professional registered with the state of California. There are no registered radon testers in the Coachella Valley. The closest ones are in Ontario.
Do you want your office or home tested for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)? Desert Cities Indoor Air has the capability and expertise to collect air samples for Carbon Dioxide, Formaldehyde, VOCs, mold, allergens and much more. Call today for a quote or to talk to a certified expert in Indoor Air Quality. Our phone number is 760-902-2545.