We recently tested several new homes for formaldehyde in the air. The newest home, advertised as a "green" home, had 300 ppb of formaldehyde. Children in homes with only 30 ppb can have decreased lung function. Between 60 ppb and 120 ppb, children are more likely to have asthma and chronic bronchitis. At 100 ppb, most adults experience eye, nose, and throat irritation.
Opening windows is the easiest way to reduce formaldehyde concentrations in homes. The best option is to use only building products that emit little or no formaldehyde. However, when conventional building materials are already in place and emitting formaldehyde, the problem will remedy itself with time. Materials that are several years old emit far less formaldehyde than new products.
The Wilson family moved into a new home last summer. Within days, they were feeling ill. Their eyes were burning, they had sore throats, and they were chronically tired.
Cleaning products and air fresheners can produce formaldehyde. UC Berkeley researchers found that chemicals in pine oils and citrus oils react with ozone in the air, producing formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a strong eye, nose, throat, and lung irritant. Formaldehyde is also an asthma trigger and a carcinogen, according to the EPA.
Some granite emits enough radon to increase the radon concentration in a kitchen. The radon in Cathy Woods’ kitchen was three times as high as the radon in her bedroom. That lung cancer risk at that level was nearly as high as smoking 10 cigarettes a day.
A Silicon Valley real estate agent told her clients, “There is no radon in California. You don’t need to worry about it.” The couple purchased a home in Sunnyvale, CA, which has some of the higher radon levels in Santa Clara County. Another home in Sunnyvale had 29 picoCuries/liter (pCi/L), more than 8 times the EPA action level (4 pCi/L). A home in Los Gatos had 56 pCi/L, which is 14 times the action level.
A homeowner in Menlo Park, CA recently discovered that his home had 14 picoCuries/liter of radon, three times the EPA action level of 4 picoCuries/liter (pCI/L). He tested his home for radon because he was concerned about his new granite counters. However, his granite was not the source of the radon. He had “geologic” radon coming from the soil beneath his house.
Cathy Woods’ new granite counters were radioactive. They contained as much uranium as commercial uranium ore. The showroom that sold Cathy her Jupurana Bordeaux granite did not warn her that some granite is radioactive. When I contacted the salesman, posing as a customer, he assured me their granite “is no more radioactive than soil or water”. However, Cathy’s granite emitted gamma radiation at many times background. The radon gas emitted by the stone tripled the radon concentration in her kitchen.