Excessive Formaldehyde Levels Found in Two of Three California Homes


Two of three California homes had excessive formaldehyde levels
USA Today Greenhouse Blog - December 24, 2009

Two-thirds of single-family homes built in California in recent years had substandard indoor air quality and excessive formaldehyde levels, partly because residents didn't open their windows for ventilation, according to a new state report.

"Nearly all homes had formaldehyde concentrations that exceeded guidelines for cancer and chronic irritation, while 59 percent exceeded guidelines for acute irritation," reports the California Environmental Protection Agency's Air Resources Board.

The agency took measurements in 108 homes in the summer and fall of 2007 and in the 2007-2008 winter. It says the detached homes, built between 2002 and 2004, were relatively airtight and few had mechanical systems such as heat recovery ventilators to circulate air. It found that many homeowners never opened their windows or doors because of concerns for safety, noise, dust or odors.

As a result of the findings, the state's Energy Commission revised California's 2008 Residential Building Energy Efficiency standards to require mechanical ventilation. The full 426-page report is available here, but there's also a 12-page executive summary.

"The report didn't surprise me," says Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing, a research group.

"This is not a problem unique to California," says Morley, noting other research that has shown excessive formaldehyde levels in many U.S. homes, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers that housed people displaced by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

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