The Air You Breathe at Home May Not Be All That Pure

Date:   Wednesday , February 08, 2017

Headquartered in Chennai, Nippon Paint is one of the dominant paint and coating companies in Asia. By minimize wastage, deliver sustainable solutions and drive towards higher optimization of resources, the entity is keen in promoting environmental sustainability.

Redecorating one\'s home is always an exciting prospect. It\'s finally time to make the home the way one perceived it to wooden cabinets, beautiful drapes and tapestry on the freshly painted walls, and so on. You can picture yourself sitting on that inviting, well cushioned couch that you have had your eyes on, feet up on the ottoman. You take a deep breath in contentment. You can feel and smell a wonderful newness. Well almost. What you probably never felt or realized is that with every deep breath, you are most probably also inhaling a pungent, colorless, flammable, carcinogenic gas called Formaldehyde. The furniture, drapes and tapestry you thought to be innocuous are usually the main sources of the indoor emission.

What Exactly is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that is used in building materials and to produce many household products. It is used in pressed-wood products, such as particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard; glues and adhesives; permanent-press fabrics; paper product coatings; and certain insulation materials. In addition, formaldehyde is commonly used as an industrial fungicide, germicide, and disinfectant, and as a preservative in mortuaries and medical laboratories. Formaldehyde also occurs naturally in the environment. It is produced in small amounts by most living organisms as part of normal metabolic processes.

Exposure to Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is normally present in both indoor and outdoor air at low levels, usually less than 0.03 parts of formaldehyde per million parts (ppm) of air. Materials containing formaldehyde can release formaldehyde gas or vapor into the air. One source of formaldehyde exposure in the air is automobile tailpipe emissions. Pressed-wood products containing formaldehyde resins are often a significant source of formaldehyde in homes. Other potential indoor sources of formaldehyde include cigarette smoke and the use of unvented fuel-burning appliances, such as gas stoves, wood-burning stoves, and kerosene heaters.

Industrial workers who produce formaldehyde or formaldehyde-containing products, laboratory technicians, certain health care professionals, and mortuary employees may be exposed to higher levels of formaldehyde than the general public. Exposure occurs primarily by inhaling formaldehyde gas or vapor from the air or by absorbing liquids containing formaldehyde through the skin.

Ill Effects of Formaldehyde Exposure

When formaldehyde is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 ppm, some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no reaction to the same level of exposure. Several surveys by the NCI (National Cancer Institute) of professionals who are potentially exposed to formaldehyde in their work, have suggested that these individuals are at an increased risk of leukaemia and brain cancer as compared with the general population.

Limiting Formaldehyde Exposure at Home

The use of \'exterior-grade\' pressed-wood products to limit formaldehyde exposure at home is recommended. These products emit less formaldehyde because they contain phenol resins, not urea resins. Pressed-wood products include plywood, paneling, particleboard and fiberboard, and are not
the same as pressure-treated wood products, which contain chemical preservatives and are intended for outdoor use. Before purchasing pressed-wood products, including building materials, cabinetry and furniture, buyers should ask about the formaldehyde content of these products. Formaldehyde levels in homes can also be reduced by ensuring adequate ventilation, moderate temperatures, and reduced humidity levels through the use of air conditioners and dehumidifiers.

Practically speaking, one may not have much control over what one breathes outside, but one can surely take charge of indoor emissions at home to a great degree with a few precautionary measures. Letting in fresh air and controlling the humidity could greatly ease the assimilation indoors. This is especially true when taking up varnishing and painting projects.

In a Nutshell

If you are looking to paint your building indoors or outdoors, it helps to make an informed decision while choosing the paint or coating. Quite a few companies have developed low VOC and zero VOC paints that emit only trace quantities of Formaldehyde. Some paints also have the ability to absorb Formaldehyde from the air, convert it to water vapour -thereby diluting the concentration of the volatile organic compound, and finally refreshing the air. Such paints actually \'take care of the air\'.

There is no escaping Formaldehyde emission entirely, but the specialty of Aircare product is not only a Zero VOC product but also abates formaldehyde that is emitted from other sources. Hence, as individuals we can take educated decisions to ensure improvement of indoor air quality.