IAQ & Formaldehyde

Galleher only sells engineered wood flooring products that meet federal (EPA) and California (CARB) regulations limiting formaldehyde emissions, or – if they are not subject to these regulations – that use low-VOC glues and meet these limits. As an extra precaution, we independently test samples of our imported products in an American lab to verify ongoing compliance with formaldehyde emissions limits.

Poor indoor air quality is frequently tied to flaws in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, but is  also attributed to contaminants produced by out-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from some types of building materials. These are chemical compounds that vaporize and enter the atmosphere under normal conditions. One of the main VOCs implicated in unhealthy indoor air quality is formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a chemical compound made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that is found literally everywhere. For example, it occurs naturally at low levels in bread, trees and the human body. Such formaldehyde is “bound up” in the matter of which it is a part and poses no risk to human health.

Formaldehyde can pose health risks when it occurs in a gaseous form in high concentrations in an indoor environment where it can be breathed. Gaseous formaldehyde is a common indoor air pollutant and exists at some level of concentration in virtually all homes and buildings. As a gas, it is colorless and strong smelling. It is released into the air from a variety of sources including the combustion of fossil fuels such as gasoline and propane, tobacco smoke, fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and a wide variety of products found in the home – including some types of engineered wood flooring (and other composite wood products) that use adhesives that off-gas formaldehyde.

Health risks of formaldehyde

Generally there are no observable health effects from formaldehyde when air concentrations are below 1.0 ppm. The onset of respiratory irritation and other health effects begins when air concentrations exceed 3.0-5.0 ppm.

Reactions to formaldehyde vary. Some people have no reaction, while others have severe and potentially life-threatening responses to exposure. The effects of breathing formaldehyde can include nose and throat irritation, a burning sensation of the eyes, wheezing, breathing difficulty, insomnia, anorexia and loss of libido. Formaldehyde can trigger asthma symptoms in those who with asthma and sensitive individuals may experience fatigue, headache and nausea from exposure.

Finally, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen: the International Agency for Research on Cancer reclassified formaldehyde from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to “carcinogenic to humans” in 2004.

Source: California Air Resources Board