…Know Your Sources:
You may be aware that the news has been reporting on imported laminate flooring, from China, having elevated formaldehyde concentrations. The Formaldehyde levels appear to be exceeding the California Air Resources Board (CARB) criteria. Our laboratory has been analyzing formaldehyde in Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) for years under the LEED program following USGBC criteria.
We would like to raise a little caution that just an IAQ test may not be conclusive and that a headspace chamber test should be done. The reason for this is that we must realize that we live in a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) world and they are everywhere. Formaldehyde is a VOC and is used in all types of products such as building materials, cosmetics, consumer products and in cigarette smoke just to name a few.
So why is it important that we do a headspace chamber test on the flooring first rather than just an IAQ test? The reason is simple; you need to define the source.
If you measure only your indoor air and you start getting close to the threshold (10-30 ppb or 12-37 ug/M3) how do you know what the potential source is? For all we know the sampling area itself could contain new furniture or new carpeting, people in the house could be smokers or new cabinets may have been installed. We have already seen in our LEED sampling program that formaldehyde has been detected and no laminate flooring was installed.
Since the story was released, Centek Labs has already received numerous laminate flooring samples from homeowners and environmental engineers. The sample results from China and other locations have been more than eyebrow-raising. We noticed elevated levels of formaldehyde in the headspace samples from China and trace amounts if not any of the few USA brands that we have received.
The samples detecting elevated levels are in the process of collecting indoor air samples that the homeowner can easily take and send back to the lab. However, as always they still should have a consultant’s expertise for the interpretation of data.
I know this is coming a bit fast, but before we start going in panic mode claiming we have issues, it needs to be taken slow to confirm the source. Centek Labs highly recommends that you ask the common who, what, when, and where questions.
We will try to keep you updated with any further findings and really would appreciate your comments.
Other great information on formaldehyde in flooring: