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California Environmental Forensic Inspections, LLC
 Call us at 925-848-5675

Formaldehyde's Impact on Indoor Air Quality

Formaldehyde is an important chemical used widely by industry to manufacture building materials and numerous household products. It is also a by-product of combustion and certain other natural processes. Thus, it may be present in substantial concentrations both indoors and outdoors.

Formaldehyde can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat. High levels of exposure may cause some types of cancers.

Where formaldehyde is found

Formaldehyde is found in:

Resins used in the manufacture of composite wood products (i.e., hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard)
Building materials and insulation
Household products such as glues, permanent press fabrics, paints and coatings, lacquers and finishes, and paper products
Preservatives used in some medicines, cosmetics and other consumer products such as dishwashing liquids and fabric softeners
Fertilizers and pesticides
It is a byproduct of combustion and certain other natural processes, and so is also found in:

Emissions from un-vented, fuel burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters.
Cigarette smoke.

How you can be exposed to formaldehyde

The primary way you can be exposed to formaldehyde is by breathing air containing off-gassed formaldehyde. Everyone is exposed to small amounts of formaldehyde in the air that has off-gassed from products, including composite wood products.

Resources and Guidance Materials, with Translations, for the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Rule.

The Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, signed into law July 7, 2010, by
President Obama, added Title VI to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The law established
limits for formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products: hardwood plywood, mediumdensity
fiberboard, and particleboard. The national emissions standards in the law are designed to
reduce exposures to formaldehyde, avoid harmful health effects and mirror standards previously
established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for products sold, offered for sale,
supplied, used or manufactured for sale in California. Congress tasked the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) with developing regulations to implement this Act.
Specifically, this rule will:
 Limit formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products that are sold, manufactured, or
imported in the United States.
 Require labelling these wood products as TSCA Title VI compliant one year after the rule is
 Set testing requirements to ensure that products comply with those standards.
 Establish a third-party certification program to ensure that composite wood panel producers
comply with the new emissions limits.
 Level the playing field for domestic manufacturers who have a high rate of compliance with the
California standard.
 Ensure that products outside of California will meet the new standard and thus, not emit
dangerous amounts of formaldehyde.
 Include exemptions from some testing and recordkeeping requirements for products made with
ultra low-emitting and no-added formaldehyde resins.
What are composite wood products and what types are covered by this rule?
 Composite wood products are created by binding strands, particles, fibers, veneers, or boards of
wood together with adhesives (i.e., glues) and include hardwood plywood, medium-density
fiberboard, and particleboard. Formaldehyde is found in the adhesives used in a wide range of
composite wood products.
 Composite wood products are commonly used in the manufacture of furniture, kitchen cabinets,
flooring, picture frames and wooden children’s toys, among other products

Frequently Asked Questions/Informational
Mold Questions
What are molds?
Molds are fungi. They can be found both indoor and outdoor. There are tens of thousands of fungi that exist. Mold grows best in damp and warm conditions and spread by making spores.  

What are the most common indoor molds and their potential health effects?
Cladosproium - this fungi produces olive-green to brown or black colonies that can form in simple or chain like growth patterns. Health effects could include infections on the skin, sinus problems and/or pulmonary infections.  
Penicillium – this fungi is often green in color and has a branch like pattern. The health effects can vary dependent upon the different species of this fungi as there are over 300. If left untreated, this fungi can damage items in your home.
Aspergillus – this fungi tends to have s stringy effect and is usually black in color. The health effects can include fever, cough, chest pain or breathlessness.
Alternaria – this fungi can grow thick colonies which are usually gray, green or black. The health effects could cause hay fever, hypersensitivity reactions that could sometimes lead to asthma.  

What are the most common sources of moisture which could lead to mold?
Leaks in roof
Plumbing problems
Damp crawl spaces or basements
Condensation resulting from bad insulation

How do I know if I have a mold problem in my home?
Mold can usually be seen or even smelled. If you can see or smell mold, or musty odor, then you probably have a mold problem. However, there are some areas of the home that are more common for mold growth which include:
On or around window air conditioners
Showers or bathroom tiles
Seal on refrigerator door
These areas should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent the growth of mold.

Can Air Duct Systems contain mold exposure?
Yes, if your home has had any type of water damage, first identify the type of air duct system that you have. If your system has a sheet metal with an internal fibrous glass liner or made of fibrous glass, the duct work will most likely need to be removed & replaced.  

How can I protect my home from mold?
Do regular check-ups of the following:
Moisture on windows
Cracking of Plasterboard
Wood Warping
Musty odor
If you see signs of any of these things, locate the source of the water exposure and act as quickly as possible before it leads to further damage and mold problems. 

How do I clean up mold?
The time you are going to become the most exposed to mold is when you are cleaning it. This is when you need to be the most careful. Because of the way molds spread, it is best to leave the clean up to the professionals as this process is very extensive and requires the removal of anything exposed to the mold, sealing off the area in which the mold is present, wearing protective gear, and several other precautionary measures to ensure that you are kept safe.  
Lead Related Information
Throughout California, California Environmental Forensic Inspections  LLC. is an established industry leader in the field of lead-based paint testing and consulting. Over the past 20 years, our staff of DHS certified lead-based paint professionals have successfully completed hundreds of lead survey and abatement projects.

Our Services Include: 

Building Surveys and Specs - AEFS helps building owners and managers determine if lead-based paint is present in their buildings prior to renovation or construction activities that disturb suspect lead-based paint. To reduce the cost of paint testing, AEFS uses a Niton X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrum Analyzer. Following the testing, AEFS will provide a comprehensive report of finding(s) that includes test results, color, substrate, and location of each paint tested.

Development of Plans and Specs - When a construction project disturbs lead-based paint, AEFS helps building owners and managers determine the proper procedures to be implemented in order to protect people at the site and to ensure that the work area is properly cleaned following lead paint disturbance or removal activities. Plans and specifications prepared by AEFS will provide lead-based paint abatement contractors with a well-defined scope of work and procedures to ensure the project is properly performed in accordance with applicable OSHA and EPA regulations.

Project Bidding Assistance - Our goal on every project is to obtain highly competitive bids from only quality abatement contractors. Having worked with hundreds throughout the years, AEFS has a vast resource of local experienced abatement contractors. Once specifications are prepared, as an added value, AEFS will invite several local abatement contractors for a bid walk. Once bids are received, AEFS will review each bid and assist with contractor selection.

Abatement Project Management - AEFS manages all aspects of lead-based paint abatement projects on our client’s behalf. The AEFS project manger monitors the contractor’s activities to ensure compliance with OSHA regulations. Once abatement is completed, the AEFS project manager performs a visual inspection and, if the area is going to be re-occupied with children, clearance-wipe sampling.

Management Plan Development - Lead-based paint management plans developed by AEFS help building owners reduce the risk posed by lead-based paint in their buildings. Our lead-based paint management programs include a copy of the lead survey report and written procedures for working safely on or around lead-based paint.

Lead Paint Training

Lead Paint Management Software

Act now to find out if your pre-1978 home or apartment has lead hazards. And, if you find lead, don't panic. Remember ... 
  • Lead paint isn't always dangerous. If it's under layers of newer, non-lead paint, you may not have a problem. Only when lead paint is disturbed - by rubbing, bumping, water damage, or during renovation - does it release tiny particles of lead dust that can harm you. 
  • The solution to a lead hazard problem isn't always expensive. There are ways to "manage" lead hazards. (In fact, removing lead, if it's done improperly, can create more problems than you had in the first place.)
  • The older the building, the more likely that it has lead ... 
  •     90% of pre-1940 buildings have lead.
  •     80% of pre-1960 buildings have lead.
  •     62% of pre-1978 buildings have lead. 
  • If liability is your primary concern, select an evaluation method that follows the 1995 HUD Guidelines, the de facto standard. If you are subsequently involved in litigation, it's likely that your actions -- what you did and how you did it -- will be measured against these guidelines.
  • Always have lead evaluations performed by certified professionals.

Clearance Testing
Clearance Testing involves dust -- and perhaps soil -- samples taken by a Certified Risk Assessor after renovation or remodeling work to make sure the work area has been cleaned up properly. (While costs vary depending on the number of samples required, an estimated cost for a typical Clearance Test is $140-$180 including up to four samples.)

Comparing Various Testing Alternatives
Under the federal lead paint disclosure requirements, home buyers are given up to 10 days (or a different period, if they and the seller agree) to conduct a lead inspection and/or risk assessment. It is important that home buyers understand their rights and consider taking advantage of this opportunity. Buyers who decide to hire a lead service provider also need to decide whether to conduct a lead inspection and/or risk assessment. The difference between a lead inspection, lead risk assessment and a lead clearance test are explained below. Specific guidance should be obtained from a certified lead service professional.

Risk Assessments
A lead risk assessment identifies lead-based paint hazards which are conditions that can cause harmful exposures to lead, particularly for young children and pregnant women.
Risk assessors identify lead-based paint hazards by conducting a visual examination of the dwelling for signs of paint deterioration, analyzing deteriorated paint to determine if it is lead-based (e.g., sending paint chips to a laboratory for analysis or using an XRF analyzer on-site), and collecting dust and soil samples for laboratory analysis. A Risk Assessment Report identifies any lead-based paint hazards found, and provides options for controlling these hazards. (An estimated cost for a typical Risk Assessment of a 3BR/2BA home - following HUD Guidelines - is $450-$500.)

Risk assessments may be appropriate in the following situations:
  • Parents who are concerned about their child's lead exposure in their current home.
  • Owners, buyers, or renters who want to know if a home has lead hazards that would likely pose a risk to their family and if so, what control options are available.
  • Home sellers (lessors) who want to document the presence or absence of lead-based paint hazards in their property so as to reduce buyers' (renters') concerns about lead hazards.
  • Owners of multi-family properties who may need a risk assessment (or a risk assessor-developed Lead Hazard Control Plan) in order to qualify for insurance or financing, or to provide additional documentation for liability purposes.
  • When states or local governments require owners to conduct a risk assessment because a child living in the housing unit has an elevated blood lead level. (Public health department environmental investigations of children with elevated blood lead levels often involve more comprehensive evaluations than a standard risk assessment).
  • Property owners who want to understand the full range of hazard control options that can be used to address lead-based paint hazards. 

Let’s Make All Kids Lead-Free Kids
Learning disabilities, hearing loss and/or violent behavior are some of the effects lead paint can have on young children. If your home was built before 1978, lead paint on your walls, doors, windows and sills may be dangerous.  

Is radon testing time consuming &/or expensive?
No, testing for radon is not time consuming and is usually inexpensive.  

Is radon usually only a problem in older homes?
No, radon can be found in new homes as well, no matter the age of the home, it's always best to test to ensure your family's safety. 

Is radon only found in certain parts of the country?
No, radon can be found in any part of the country
Radon Questions