Formaldehyde testing involves taking an air sample to determine the level of the gas in the air where people live or work. Testing can be done by a qualified professional or through a purchased test kit that is mailed to a laboratory for analysis. Formaldehyde testing determines if the chemical is present in a home, business, or workplace, and at what levels. If high levels are discovered, professional air quality testers commonly recommend corrective actions to lower the risk of health problems.
Remediation might be as simple as providing more ventilation. If dangerously high levels of formaldehyde register, the removal of products containing the chemical might be recommended. Government regulatory agencies commonly set safety standards to address formaldehyde and other contaminants in the environment that could have a negative effect on health.
Formaldehyde is a common material used in products found in homes and commercial buildings. It is routinely used in bonded wood products, such as particle board, and furniture made with these materials. The chemical usually remains in the bonded product, but may produce emissions known as free-forming formaldehyde. Formaldehyde testing can detect whether chemical emissions have polluted the air.
The chemical also shows up in exhaust from automobiles, tobacco smoke, and smoke from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Other common sources of formaldehyde might exist in carpeting and some fabrics. It is a colorless, natural chemical that can emit a strong odor when present indoors at high levels. The quantity of formaldehyde is generally strongest immediately after products are produced and may decrease over time.
Prolonged or repeated exposure to formaldehyde may cause health problems, especially in people suffering from asthma. They may experience trouble breathing, coughing, throat or nose irritation, and weepy eyes. The chemical is considered a carcinogen because it caused cancer in laboratory animals, but the risk to humans from exposure at home is considered low by some experts.
Home formaldehyde testing kits consist of monitoring devices that are left in an area for a minimum of 24 hours. Collection devices are mailed to a laboratory that analyzes the level of formaldehyde present in the environment. A written report explaining the results is commonly provided to the user. Home formaldehyde testing kits are also available to determine if the chemical is present in water; these kits routinely use sodium sulfite and hydrochloric acid that causes the water to change color if formaldehyde is present.