Tag Archive | "formaldehyde"

What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a flammable, colorless gas with a very pungent odor. It has many other names, such as; methanol, methyl aldehyde, methylene oxide, formalin, and formol.

It is widely produced around the world as a preservative and a disinfectant. Used in textile finishing and production of resins which acts as adhesives and binders for wood products, pulp, paper, glass wool, and rock wool as well as some plastics, coatings, paints, varnishes, and industrial chemicals.

Exposure to formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen; can cause asthma, allergies, lung and liver problems, damage to your immune system and chronic poisoning in severe cases. It also causes cancer of the nasal cavity due to long term exposure to high levels of formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is also commonly used in hospitals; in water based solutions called formalin or in a powder form know as paraformaldehyde. It’s used in these areas histopathology and anatomical pathology labs or in forensic mortuaries. These solutions are used for fixing human organs and tissues after autopsy or biopsy or for a preservative and disinfectant in embalming fluids, gels and surface packs.

Health Canada and the Canadian Government (as well as other countries) have been taking steps and implementing new protocols for people who work or are exposed to and those who use Formaldehyde (any form). Changes have been made to guidelines to ensure exposure levels are low and to make sure all safety equipment is available and proper safety training is conducted. Health Canada has also made changes to the guidelines and controls for labeling requirements.

Formaldehyde is also found in homes and workplaces. Many household items produce formaldehyde; therefore, suggestions for how to reduce the levels are indicated in the chart below:

Formaldehyde Solution
Cigarettes (tobacco smoke) Always smoke outside, never inside.
Cabinets & Furniture made of particle board or medium density fiberboard Buy these products covered with plastic laminate or coated on all sides.
Humidity Levels Should be monitored; high humidity can cause products to release formaldehyde into the air.
Permanent Press Clothing & Sheets Air out before use.
Ventilation System Ensure proper ventilation is in place when using products that contains formaldehyde or any forms.
Engines Don’t run any kind in spaces attached to your house or near any open windows and doors of your home.
Fireplaces & Wood Stoves When in use, make sure proper ventilation is in place.


It is always a good idea to have an indoor air quality monitor installed in your home or workplace.

For suggestions on a fixed gas detection system, please visit www.critical-environment.com.



“Formaldehyde”. Health Canada. 25 August 2010. Web. 1 Oct 2012. <http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/air/in/poll/construction/formaldehyde-eng.php>.

“Formaldehyde”. Wikipedia. 27 October 2012. Web. 8 Oct 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formaldehyde>.

“Formaldehyde in Consumer Products”. Australian Competiion & Consumer Commission: Product Safety Australia. 2012. Web. 5 Oct 2012. <http://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/973697>.

“Formaldehyde Toxic Chemical”. Organic Natural Health. Web. 8 Oct 2012. <http://www.health-report.co.uk/formaldehyde.html>.

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The Hazards of Being in a Beauty Salon

There are many health risks associated with the beauty industry due to the chemicals found in the products. We are all affected by these chemicals every time we go to the beauty salon. Many of the products found in these salons are classified as hazardous and extreme caution should be taken into consideration when using these products. They’re made for professional use only; therefore, users must be trained and certified to be handling these products. A proper ventilation system needs to be in place at all salons for the safety of everyone entering the salon and / or exposed to the hazardous chemicals in the products.

Some common side effects of some of the products include (but not limited to) dermatitis, asthma, and eye and throat irritation. Hazardous chemicals can enter the body by swallowing, inhaling, and through the skin. The severity of reactions depends on the length and frequency of exposure to these products, the toxicity of the substance, and the route of entry into the body.

Examples of salon products containing hazardous substances:

Hair dyes, bleaches, permanent wave solutions, shampoos, hair styling agents, brow and lash tints, chemical peels, peroxides, wax solvents, disinfectants, cleaning products, keratin treatments, nail enamels and hardeners, nail polish removers and solvents, nail tips and wraps, acrylic and gel nail systems.

Examples of Hazardous Chemicals:

Formaldehyde: Also known as methanal, methyl aldehyde or methylene oxide, causes neurotoxicity and allergic reactions. Irritations to the eyes, nose, throat, skin, and respiratory tracks are common symptoms.

Based on the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) standards, the permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 0.75 parts per million (ppm).
Based on National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standards, the recommended exposure limit (REL) is 0.016 ppm

Methyl Methacrylate (MMA) & Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA): Irritates the eyes, mucous membrane, and respiratory tract and is highly toxic.

Based on OSHA standards, the PEL for MMA is 100 ppm and not yet determined for EMA.
Based on NIOSH standards, the REL for MMA is 100 ppm and not yet determined for EMA.

Dibutyle Phthalate: Commonly found in synthetic fragrances and some plastics. It will cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and lungs and irritation to the eyes, stomach and upper respiratory system.

Based on OSHA standards, the PEL for dibutyle phthalates is 5 mg / m3.
Based on NIOSH standards, the REL for dibutyle phthalates is 5 mg / m3.

Solvents (Acetone, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, Xylene, and Toluene): Causes headaches, nausea, dizziness, and irritability.

Based on OSHA standards, the PEL for acetone is 1,000 ppm, 200 ppm for methyle ethyl ketone and toluene, and 100 ppm for xylene.
Based on NIOSH standards, the REL for acetone is 250 ppm, 200 ppm for methyle ethyl ketone, and 100 ppm for toluene and xylene.

Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethylamine (TEA): Used as foaming agents, synthetic emulsifiers. They are HIGHLY acidic and cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and dryness of hair and skin. DEA and TEA are ammonia compounds, which are potent carcinogens, can also strip away vital amino acids.

Based on OSHA standards, the PEL for DEA is not determined and TEA is 25 ppm.
Based on NIOSH standards, the REL for DEA is 3 ppm and TEA is 10 ppm.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate / Sodium Laureth Sulfate: Found in the majority of shampoos, to create lather and bubbles. These sulfates are generally derived from petroleum which causes eye and scalp irritation and tangled hair.

The PEL & REL has not yet been determined by the OSHA and NIOSH standards.

Paraben (methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl): Found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, spray tanning solutioins, makeup and toothpaste to prolong their shelf life. Paraben are estrogenic which are disruptive of normal hormone function; exposure has been linked to breast cancer and cause skin and allergic reactions.

The PEL & REL has not yet been determined by the OSHA and NIOSH standards.

Naphtha: Also known as coal tar are used in synthetic colors and dyes to make products pretty. However, they heavy metal salts that deposit toxins onto the skin which causes irritation and are carcinogenic. Irritations to the eyes, skin, and nose, dizziness, drowsiness, and dermatitis are common symptoms.

Based on OSHA standards, the PEL for naphtha is 100 ppm.
Based on NIOSH standards, the REL for naphtha is 100 ppm.

Propylene Glycol: Also known as propylene glycol dinitrate is a synthetic petrochemical used as an emulsifying base in lotions and creams (to make the skin look smooth). Propylene Glycol actually ages the skin at a faster rate, also leads to poor, saggy skin through absorption. It is a MAJOR ingredient in brake and hydraulic fluids which causes an allergic reaction and damages to the kidneys and liver.

Based on OSHA standards, the PEL for propylene gylcol is not determined.
Based on NIOSH standards, the REL for propylene gylcol is 0.05 ppm.

Mineral Oil: Also known as oil mist is petroleum based oil which enlarges and clogs the skins pores, can also cause acne, poor/saggy skin. Mineral oil decreases the skin cell’s ability to exchange nutrients and waste products. Irritations to the eyes, skin and respiratory system are common symptoms.

Based on OSHA standards, the PEL for mineral oil is 5 mg / m3.
Based on NIOSH standards, the REL for mineral oil is 5 mg / m3.

It is extremely important to have a proper ventilation system in place. Some salons may have outdated systems or none at all. Natural ventilation generally does not provide sufficient air flow to be suitable for controlling airborne contaminants. Having proper ventilation system will provide a continuous supply of fresh outside air, maintain the temperature and relative humidity level, reduce explosion hazards, and reduce or  remove airborne contaminants. There are two types of ventilation systems, dilution ventilation and local exhaust, are explained below.

Dilution ventilation system effectively is effective for small dispersed contaminant sources. It dilutes contaminated air by blowing in clean air and exhausting some dirty air. It doesn’t completely remove contaminants and is not used for highly toxic chemicals.

Local exhaust ventilation system removes airborne contaminants at the source before they can be breathed in.  It captures contaminate emissions at or very near the source and exhausts them outside.

Although having proper ventilation system is very important for the health and safety of people entering or exposed to the salon, it can be extremely expensive to have the system on 24 / 7. A simple solution to this would be to install fixed gas detectors in rooms where the products are being stored and / or used. Therefore, when the level of gas emitted from the product is at a pre-set level, the ventilation system will automatically turn on to dilute or exhaust the air.

For suggestions on fixed or portable gas detectors, please visit www.critical-environment.com.

Written by: Ambur Vilac & Teresa Kouch


“Guide for the hairdressing, nail and beauty industry.” Queensland Government. 14 June 2011. Web. 27 Sep 2011. <http://www.deir.qld.gov.au/workplace/subjects/hairdressing/guide/index.htm>.

“Hairdressing, Nail and Beauty Safety.” Unionsafe. 15 Nov 2005. Web. 21 Sep 2011. <http://unionsafe.labor.net.au/hazards/106014706721942.html>.

“Harmful Chemicals in Hair Products.” Green Hair Products.com. 1997-2008. Web. 21 Sep 2011. <http://www.green-hair-products.com/harmful_chemicals_in_hair_products.htm>.

“Industrial Ventilation.” Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. 10 Jan 2008. Web. 27 Sep 2011. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/prevention/ventilation/introduction.html>.

“NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 10 Aug 2010. Web. 27 Sep 2011. <http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/default.html>.

“Occupational Health Hazards in Nail Salons.” Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc. 30 Dec 2005. Web. 27 Sep 2001. <http://www.ohcow.on.ca/resources/handbooks/nail_salon/nail_salons.pdf>.

“Oregon OSHA Fact Sheet: Safety and Health Hazards in Nail Salons.” Oregon OSHA. 1 Feb 2008. Web. 27 Sep 2011. <http://www.orosha.org/pdf/pubs/fact_sheets/fs28.pdf>.

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Things to think about when it comes to an energy efficient home

Every where we turn people are conserving and reducing in order to save money and our homes are no exception.

Every day there is new methods and products that are introduced to the market for you to save on your energy bill. In the short term, these newly introduced products stop your house from losing heat. What you may not know is that, in the long term, these same products are causing you to keep all the chemicals that are being off gassed inside with you. This is no different than a gas chamber. The most common off gassed chemical is formaldehyde. It is a common indoor air pollutant and can be toxic, allergenic, and carcinogenic. Unlike a cereal box, the common everyday items, such as furniture, clothes, cosmetics, toys, building materials, etc., do not come with a complete list of ingredients or wares.

If an older home has not been looked at from an overall air treatment stand point, the owner could be encapsulating himself in an unhealthy environment. Here are some examples:

  • The CO2 levels could be getting to over 1,000 ppm with three or four people living in the same air for 10-12 hours with little or no air exchange.
  • That new desk in the basement office could be off gassing formaldehyde.
  • The cleaners used on the kitchen floor every week for months at a time could be emitting any type of VOC.
  • The humidity levels being raised from cooking could encourage off gassing.
  • Harmful adhesives used in producing insulations could be hiding in your walls and releasing formaldehyde gas.
  • The new coat of paint could be off gassing beneze, a VOC that causes carcinogen.

Only 188 air toxins out of 80,000 chemicals are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and have been tested for harmful effects. In other words, only 2% of the chemicals are being identified and possibly regulated. Not only are these substances a problem but the bio-accumulation lingers and can be deadly.

What should you look for in a new home?

For a well designed, new house built for high efficiency and maximum energy conservation, there are four things to look for:

  1. It should have a 95% efficient furnace or better yet, a heat exchange system (heat pump) for heating.
  2. The walls and attic should meet the R-2000 standard rating. This is a voluntary standard that is certified by the Government of Canada to exceed building code requirements for energy efficiency, indoor air quality (IAQ), and environmental responsibility.
  3. All the windows and doors are double or triple glazed and has high R-value rating when closed. This value determines the effectiveness of the insulation.
  4. It has an air handler that exchanges the internal for external air at a defined rate using a heat recovery unit to reduce the loss of energy.

What should you do to your current home?

For an older, well maintained house, there are three things that you can do to save on your energy bill:

  1. When remodeling, add extra insulation into the wall but make sure that the insulation does not contain formaldehyde.
  2. Add insulation into the attic and seal off the attic entrance.
  3. Install new double or triple glazed windows as well as new doors with air tight seals.
  4. Place plants in the home. Plants are known to purify the air and remove 99.9% of toxins.

Written by: Richard Grant, CETCI’s Service Department Supervisor

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CETCI Simultaneously Identifies the Air You’re Breathing with YESAIR & YES Plus LGA

Critical Environment Technologies Canada Inc. (CETCI) is a known industry leader and innovator for the indoor air quality (IAQ) market. Their two best selling portable IAQ instruments are the YESAIR and YES Plus LGA.

Both IAQ instruments are portable, multi-channel monitors featuring thirty different internal plug and play sensors to select from and a remote particulate sensor that simultaneously monitors within a single, easy to carry instrument. CETCI’s plug & play sensor options are the widest selection on the market and include electrochemical (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, ammonia, chlorine dioxide, formaldehyde, arsine, fluorine, hydrazine, phosphine, silane, and many more), catalytic (combustible gases), infrared (CO2 or combustible gases), and PID (TVOC). Users can set one alarm level for each gas to activate the internal audible alarm. Both instruments have a built-in SD flash card for data logging and an internal sample pump for “active sampling”. The LCD display, on both, indicates each sensor type installed, measured values for each gas, battery status, and more.

YESAIR has been on the market since 2006. Even today, it still offers more features, flexibility and functionality than any other instrument on the market. YESAIR is CE certified and has a seven-sensor capacity with up to five internal plug & play sensors, a fixed temperature sensor, and a fixed relative humidity (RH) sensor. The LCD displays all the installed sensors simultaneously and can operate 12-14 hours with a NiMH battery pack or continuously with a wall adapter. The instrument is enclosed in a rugged ABS/polycarbonate enclosure and can either be a handheld, stand on a flat surface, or fastened to a wall for permanent or semi-permanent use. With only three tactile push buttons makes the YESAIR simple to use. Optional features include internet and network accessible.

YES Plus LGA was recently introduced to the market earlier this year as an upgrade from the original YES Plus. This single solution, multi-sensor IAQ and landfill surface gas emissions monitor is pending CE certifications. It features four tactile push buttons for easy use and a fifteen sensor capacity with up to twelve internal plug & play sensors, a fixed temperature sensor, a RH sensor, and a remote sensor. The LCD displays up to six installed sensors at one time and scrolls to display more. It can operate 18-24 hours with a NiMH battery pack or continuously with a wall adapter. YES Plus LGA is housed in a rugged ABS enclosure and has an aluminum swivel handle that acts as a handheld or stand support.

The Landfill Gas Analyzer (LGA) version has an optional plug-in GPS and Bluetooth module and a firmware version that’s suitable for landfill surveys to communicate to pocket PDAs. The internal sample pump has an automatic flow control that ensures 1-LPM flow rate even with resistance. This version will be available later this fall.

CETCI will continue to develop and expand their portable IAQ product line to meet the needs of the market. For more information on the entire range of IAQ instruments and gas detection systems, please visit www.critical-environment.com.

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Know the Air You’re Breathing: How can you improve the IAQ around you? (4 of 4)

How can you improve the IAQ around you?

Now that you have an understanding about the air that you’re breathing, you can take can control and improve your IAQ.

Here are some preventatives that you can do to minimize your health risk:

If using products that have high fume make sure there is proper ventilation. Outdoor air can dilute the chemical level.
No smoking indoors or near windows or doors. Tobacco smoke gets absorbed by furniture, carpets, curtains, etc. and takes a long time to be desorbed.
Chimney needs to be cleaned and clear of obstructions.
Don’t idle vehicles or gas powered equipment indoor (eg. garage) or near windows or doors.
For building & household products, use “green” or “environmentally friendly” options.
If possible, wash and air out products (eg. drapes, clothing, sheets) containing any VOC before bringing indoor.
Buy limited quantities to avoid having leftovers for storage.
Safely dispose partially full containers of old or unneeded chemicals.
Prevent moisture build-up inside and make sure water leaks are cleaned up rapidly.
Keep humidity levels below 60% (Aerias) by purchasing a dehumidifier. High humidity encourages off gassing.
Read labels and use as directed.

Written by: Teresa Kouch, Marketing



Aerias. “VOCs: A Major Contributor to Indoor Pollution”. Retrieved June 8, 2010 from http://www.aerias.org/DesktopModules/ArticleDetail.aspx?articleId=131.

Berglund, et al. (1997). “Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC) in Indoor Air quality Investigations”. Retrieved June 8, 2010 from http://www.inive.org/medias/ECA/ECA_Report19.pdf.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). “NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards”. Retrieved June 8, 2010 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/default.html.

Environment Canada. (2010). “Clean Air Online”. Retrieved June 7, 2010 from http://www.ec.gc.ca/cas-aqhi/default.asp?Lang=En.

Gilbert, Nicolas. (2005). “Proposed residential indoor air quality guidelines for formaldehyde”. Retrieved June 3, 2010 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/alt_formats/hecs-sesc/pdf/pubs/air/formaldehyde/in-formaldehyde-eng.pdf.

Health Canada. (2006). “Residential Indoor Air Quality Guideline: Formaldehyde”. Retrieved June 4, 2010 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/alt_formats/hecs-sesc/pdf/pubs/air/formaldehyde-eng.pdf.

Health Canada. (2009a). “Formaldehyde – Pollutants from Household Products and Building Materials”. Retrieved June 3, 2010 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/air/in/poll/construction/formaldehyde-eng.php.

Health Canada. (2009b). “It’s Your Health: Formaldehyde and Indoor Air”. Retrieved June 4, 2010 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/alt_formats/pacrb-dgapcr/pdf/iyh-vsv/environ/formaldehyde-eng.pdf.

US Environmental Protection Agency. (1991). “Indoor Air Fact Sheet No. 4 (revised) – Sick Building Syndrome”. Retrieved June 8, 2010 from http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/sbs.html.

US Environmental Protection Agency. (1994). “Indoor Air Pollution: An Introduction for Health Professionals”. Retrieved June 8, 2010 from http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/hpguide.html.

US Environmental Protection Agency. (2010). “An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)”. Retrieved June 8, 2010 from http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html.

World Health Organization. (1989). “International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS): Environmental Health Criteria 89: Formaldehyde”. Retrieved June 2, 2010 from http://www.inchem.org/documents/ehc/ehc/ehc89.htm.

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Know the Air You’re Breathing: Sick Building Syndrome/Building Related Illness & PID Sensors (3 of 4)

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) and
Building Related Illness (BRI)

Long term exposure to VOC contributes to SBS and BRI. Based on the US Environmental Protection Agency (1991), SBS and BRI are compared in Table 3 below:

Table 3: Comparison between SBS & BRI

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) Building Related Illness (BRI)
Definition An illness temporarily associated with an occupant’s presence in a building caused by indoor air pollutants. A diagnosable illness caused by an identified agent in the indoor air.
Symptoms Headaches
Eye, nose, throat irritation
Dry cough
Dry or itchy skin
Chest tightness
Muscle aches
Cause Unknown Identified
Symptom after leaving building Relief Require prolong recovery time


Photo-ionization Detector (PID)
A PID is commonly used to measure TVOC mainly because it is the most efficient on the market. It provides instant and continuous readings to the user. However, if there’s a rapid temperature change or humidity level is high, the reading maybe affected.

PID is great for indicating the presence of VOC but it doesn’t identify the exact type of VOC. If a TVOC reading is 200 µg/m3 and increased to 300 µg/m3 the next month, it’s impossible to say the increase was due to formaldehyde. It’s also impossible to identify what combination of VOC made up the TVOC reading.

Ideally, measuring the exact type of VOC and monitoring it is a better practice. Unfortunately, this is not the case due to very high cost and convenience. In the short term, having one instrument to provide a TVOC reading as well as other sensors is less expensive and easier for the technician than to have to carry multiple units for each type of chemical. However, in the long term, if a high reading was detected, it will cost more to solve the problem since the type of VOC needs to be identified before a solution gets established. The technician would need to make a lot of assumptions and do a lot of trial and error runs which could take forever or a more simple method would be to analyze the air samples. Depending on the seriousness of the situation, other costs that get lumped into the problem are evacuation of the occupants, specific VOC detector(s) needs to be purchased, delays of other projects, and the time of all the individuals involved.

Common buildings that should monitor their IAQ include:

  • Hospitals
  • Scientific facilities eg. laboratories
  • School
  • Commercial buildings
  • Warehouses
  • Industrial buildings
  • Parkades
  • Repair shops
  • Food plants
  • Salons & spas
  • Manufacturing Plants
  • Medical Offices
  • Construction sites
  • Transportation facilities
  • And many more…

Written by: Teresa Kouch, Marketing

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Gas Detectors

CETCI gas detectors are used to detect many different gases. Some of the most common are Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Nitric Oxide, Ammonia, Chlorine, Ozone, Combustible Gases like Methane and Propane, Oxygen, Refrigerants and more.

IAQ Monitors

The YES Series of IAQ Monitors are essential for those responsible for conducting Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Investigations. These instruments are specifically designed to measure and record the quality of indoor air in offices, buildings, homes, schools, parking garages, ice rinks, etc.