Use “active” materials that absorb formaldehyde, cultivate specific varieties of plants, use VMC systems or devices for air purification. The health of the environments in which we live is “treatable”!
Among the harmful substances that we can find in our homes, the most notorious is certainly formaldehyde. This pollutant, together with carbon dioxide, is considered as a “marker” for indoor air quality: when in a room we can find concentrations of formaldehyde beyond the norm, we are sure that, together with it, there are traces of many other potentially harmful compounds.
Detecting formaldehyde is very easy and immediate: unlike most VOCs, which require the help of a specialised laboratory to be identified, for this substance it is sufficient to correctly position a good direct measurement sensor capable of giving us an immediate value with sufficient approximation.
Formaldehyde is practically ubiquitous and is very often detected in homes throughout Italy. It can be emitted from building materials, from cigarette smoke, from household cleaning products, from all combustion appliances (kitchens, stoves, gas or wood boilers), and is also used as a component for glues or other adhesives, as a preservative in some paints or as a disinfectant.
In addition to cigarette smoke, the most noticeable sources of formaldehyde are represented by many pressed wood boards, chipboards or plywood-based panels (especially those that are not certified) that are used in flooring, furnishings or wall coverings.
The regulations that protect our health
As for what regards limits and certifications, in regard to our country, in addition to the aforementioned Ministerial Decree of 04/11/2008 (transposition of the GPP) we are fortunately protected by the Ministerial Decree of 10/10/2008. This standard establishes that wood-based panels for interiors and the products made with them cannot be placed on the market if, tested with a particular process, they emit a quantity of formaldehyde greater than 120 μg/m3. This value defines an emissive product certification “E1”, which we can request from our trusted supplier.
In Italy this important reference linked to building materials is confirmed by Circular no. 57 of 22/06/1983, which indicates in 120 μg/m3 the maximum recommended limit of formaldehyde (this time environmental) suitable to define the health of an indoor space.
Let’s not forget, however, that these laws will never cover the entirety of the problem and, above all, will never be able to be promptly enacted to resolve an environment in a very strong transformation.
Advice and some useful tools to improve indoor air quality
Only science, culture and technology can immediately respond to our need for healthy environments by offering us different methods to improve the quality of the air in the confined spaces of our homes.
We can use, for example, some “active” materials that absorb formaldehyde, cultivate specific varieties of plants inside the house, insert controlled mechanical ventilation systems or use devices for the purification and cleaning of indoor air.
Architect Leopoldo Busa,
Expert in indoor air quality