When you breathe in chemicals, the risks that you run of contracting one of many adverse effects of exposure is dependent on what the chemical is, how much of it is in the air you’re breathing, how long you are exposed to it, and how frequently you’re exposed.
If your home’s new flooring has Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in it, they emit low concentrations of emissions over time. When you’re exposed to these over an extended period of time, your symptoms tend to worsen, and you run a risk of contracting a serious health issue. If you have breathing issues like asthmas or if you have a sensitivity to chemicals, you’re going to have an even higher risk.
Remember that when talking about VOCs, it isn’t a single form of a chemical, but instead, this is the name given to a whole group of chemicals, each of which has its own range of symptoms and side effects.
Typical long and short term exposure symptoms for higher levels of VOCs in the air from your new flooring, paint, and other factors include nausea, dizziness, asthma, irritation, cancer, liver diseases, nervous disorders, kidney damage, headaches, and worse.The most common form of VOC found in new flooring is formaldehyde.
Danger of Formaldehyde Exposure
Formaldehyde is a common component of new flooring. It is a gas that is released from different sources over time. While it has a strong smell, it can’t be seen to the naked eye. Breathing in excess amounts of this gas can lead to sore throats, bad coughs, itchy eyes and even nosebleeds. This chemical odor is also used to preserve corpses at the morgue.
Exposure to this gas is a relative term. Not everyone has the same level of sensitivity to a particular chemical. There are some people who have a higher sensitivity than others, which can lead to non-threatening exposure levels becoming very threatening indeed in some situations. Typically, one finds that other upper respiratory tract infections and diseases including influenza, the common cold, and allergies increase the risk of contracting one of the side effects of formaldehyde exposure, even at low levels.
One of the biggest dangers of breathing in this gas is the increased risk of cancer it brings with it. This is no small matter either, as it has been a proven factor in the propagation of mutated cells in the body, especially in the nose, throat, and lungs.
Symptoms of Formaldehyde Exposure
Before we get into the actual symptoms that stem from exposure to this gas, you must know the patterns through which they manifest themselves.
Time is of the essence here. You will usually notice the first symptoms a few days after moving into a house or building that has contaminated flooring. These symptoms will be far more severe for residents who have breathing issues, or for those who spend a lot of time in the home or building. Younger children are more likely to suffer symptoms first.
Some of the short-term symptoms of exposure include burning eyes, redness, itchiness in the eyes, a dry nose, a sore throat, a runny nose, a dry throat, congested sinuses, and a post nasal drip. Other symptoms include a cough, difficulty breathing, phlegm, sinus problems, bronchitis and eye infections.For the more sensitive residents, asthma attacks may become commonplace.
Testing Your Home’s Air For Formaldehyde and VOCs
While there are several options for testing the indoor air in your home for formaldehyde, all of them have some drawbacks, ranging from cost and unknown reliability of the tests to the difficulty of interpreting the test results and the inability of the tests to differentiate among the many potential sources of formaldehyde in the home. Should you decide to have indoor air testing performed, you should consult the CPSC booklet for guidance.
Formaldehyde in Engineered Wood or Laminate Flooring
Formaldehyde is used in the manufacture of most wood-based products in homes, including laminate and wood flooring. There is no reason to panic, though, because the compound has been approved at extremely low levels for use in homes.
Most countries and states have regulations that govern the safe levels of formaldehyde emissions that can be utilized in a home. However, some companies in recent years have been found guilty of shipping wood flooring with extremely high levels of formaldehyde concentrations in them to the US and other countries. Since the gas is a known carcinogen (it causes cancer!), the EPA in the USA and other health organizations around the world introduced laws that prohibited individuals from being exposed to high levels of the gas. These were applicable to any and all wood flooring products being produced.
Before you start panicking, remember that formaldehyde is a naturally occurring gas. As such, it is constantly present in your home whether you have wood flooring in it or not. The goal is to keep the background level of formaldehyde in your home low enough that it doesn’t interfere with healthy living.
This doesn’t mean that you should completely avoid engineered wood flooring solutions for your home. All products are required, by law, to have their formaldehyde emission rate on the packaging. Always check for this before buying a product. Make sure it is lower than the regulations permit the maximum level to be.
While you’re at it, check certification labels as well. These aren’t usually good enough to be a major factor in your buying decision, but their presence should help. You should typically look for flooring that has an emission rate of about 6 micrograms per cubic meter per hour or less. One thing you can feel safe about is the age of your flooring. If you installed your engineered wood or laminate flooring a few years ago, the formaldehyde levels will not be as high as they would be in new floors. The emission of the gas reduces over time until it becomes negligible. While this doesn’t happen with all the products on the market, it is quite often the case.
Consider testing your floors before you start ripping them all up after reading this. You should only be worried if you can smell a strong chemical odor when you walk into your home, if you have new or worsened breathing problems, or if you have severe eye irritation whenever you are at home.
If possible, entrust the testing of your home to a professional agency that is trusted by the industry and the EPA. Don’t use DIY test kits. They may or may not be accurate, but aren’t spoken for by any government agency.
You can reduce the levels of VOC’s in your home to safer thresholds by practicing a few simple safety steps: 1. Open your windows! Fresh air is the best way to reduce VOCs buildup in your home. As any physicist will tell you, gasses at a high concentration will try to normalize its level when exposed to air. While impractical in the winter, opening your windows every morning in the summer reduces the dangerous buildup of this chemicals in your home but this tip comes with a disclaimer as you must be cautious and aware of your surroundings and what they are being exposed too. Often neigbohing homes are being sprayed with pesticides and other harmful chemicals which may cross contaminate your home if you are not careful as well. 2. Reduce your humidity. If you use a thermostat or a humidifier, set these to the lowest levels where you are still comfortable. The higher these are, the more formaldehyde is released into the air of your home. 3. Stop smoking. When you do need to smoke, take it outside, so there won’t be added chemical stressors inside your house. 4. Pick your products wisely. This is the best way to reduce levels in your home. Ensure that most of your flooring and furniture has been made with no or low-VOC wood glue or meets the lowest thresholds available for those products in your region.
How to Treat a Carpet with Formaldehyde
Another risk factor you may not be aware of is that new flooring and carpets contain VOCs like formaldehyde too.
Traditional carpet cleaners simply won’t do the job in a case like this. This is because they use fragrances to mask odors, but do very little to treat or eliminate the source of the odor. There are targeted cleaning products out there like our EnviroKlenz Everyday Odor Eliminator that have been built specifically for this purpose to not only remove chemical odors and VOCs from your carpeting and surface but neutralize the chemical odors that can be a detriment to your health.
The technology used in a product like this is usually naturally occurring minerals in the earth. As you use the product on your carpet, it neutralizes the chemical that causes the odor, such as the complex molecules of formaldehyde, and turn them into other compounds that are odorless and completely safe.
This chemical process is irreversible and highly reactive and there is a very low occurring chance of the smell returning at any point in the future once proper surface contact is made. As long as you clean it right, and follow the manufacturer’s best practices you won’t have to worry about smelling it again.
For the best results, use the EnviroKlenz odor eliminator directly on the carpet, we recommend using a 4:1 ratio (4 parts EnviroKlenz & 1 part water) in a pump sprayer. Spray the carpeting or affected area and make sure that there is a visible layer of a product being applied on the source of the odor. Allow the mixture to make contact for ~15 minutes and come behind with either a hot water extractor or shop vacuum to get any remaining water or product out from the carpeting. If you are unable to use a shop vacuum or hot water extractor you may let the product dry and use a carpet brush or household vacuum to vacuum up any residual product.
How to remove chemical odors from wood flooring
Generally, a homeowner should be very cautious about what products they use to clean or deodorize when it comes to wood or composite flooring. Enzyme cleaners and deodorizer are known to eat away or etch wood flooring and can have some irreversible damage on your flooring if you are not careful, and some traditional clean product such as Clorox and ammonia are very abrasive and can etch or create pinholes in your flooring. The EnviroKlenz Everyday odor eliminator is the safest and most effective product at removing chemical odors and malodors from wood flooring. Just dilute the product in a 4:1 (4 parts EnviroKlenz & 1 part water) and mop it on the wood flooring. Allow it to sit for ~15 minutes and come behind with warm water and mop off any residual product that hs been left behind.
Formaldehyde removal from air
In addition to the treating the source of the odors that were mentioned earlier in the post, a homeowner should seriously consider treating the air in their home that has been exposed to the off-gassing of chemical odors and VOCs. The EnviroKLenz air product offers a full array of products that work to neutralize VOCs and chemical odors from your home indoor environment without releasing any additional chemicals or fragrances back into the environment.
EnviroKlenz HVAC filter destroys noxious chemicals and odors rather than just trapping particulates like other HVAC filter and Hepa Filters. Carbon filters have been shown to be effective at capturing but not eliminating or destroying chemical odors and gasses compared to EnviroKlenz HVAC filter which neutralizes the odors and VOCs preventing them from returning to your indoor air space.
Some common examples of VOCs and other toxic compounds that can be safely removed with the EnviorKlenz HVAC filter but not limited to are listed below:
The EnviroKlenz Mobile Air System is your solution for removing VOCs from your home both safely and effectively. The unit is portable and once the Enviro-Air® Cartridge (size 14”x14” included with purchase) is installed it will begin to remove and neutralize chemical odors, allergy triggers, and VOCs from your home’s indoor environment without releasing any chemicals or fragrances back into the air.
The EnviroKlenz Mobile Air System has a tremendous competitive advantage over other air purifiers which utilize carbon to absorb the VOCs and chemical odors from your home. Carbon works similar to a sponge when filled with water it will leak back or emit the very same VOCS that it took in back into your environment. In addition, carbon that claims to be activated are actually doped with chemicals that can cause allergy sufferers and those who suffer from Multiple Chemical sensitivity to react.
The EnviroKlenz mobile air system utilizes a patented, hospital-grade technology to provide maximum air cleaning efficiency for your home and office by combining a certified HEPA filtration along with a patented EnviroKlenz-Air Cartridge to remove airborne pollen, dust, odors, mold, gasses, fragrance, VOCs, allergens, bacteria, and more. The technology is both safe (made from earth minerals) and fast acting as it works to move the contaminated air from your home through a two stage filtration process which entails VOC and malodor removal, followed by particulate removal of up to .3 microns. The technology is versatile enough to be used on a broad spectrum of chemical odors and VOCs as well as malodors such as pets and cooking odors.