Question

We had a manufactured home built in 2006. The odor is still in the home and affects my sinuses, which I have never had problems with before.

Asked by Pat Lamm
Melbourne, FL

Mobility Homes built the manufactured house in Florida. I can smell the glue on the wall panels. I have washed the walls. Still, guests and myself have difficulty with the air. What steps can be taken to check air quality?

Answer

Cynthia Phakos

Answered by Cynthia Phakos

Los Angeles, CA

Koffka Phakos Design

February 7, 2011

Manufactured homes have a history of excessive use of formaldehyde, which is most likely the odor that you are experiencing, and would explain your sinus problems. 

  • Formaldehyde levels are highest on warm, humid days, of which Florida has many.
  • As a short-term solution, this can be reduced significantly with cross-ventilation, and so opening windows at opposite ends of the house would be recommended on those days.

Sources of formaldehyde in your home

The most significant source of formaldehyde is pressed wood products made with adhesives containing urea-formaldehyde resins. 

  • This would include particleboard, medium density fiberboard, and plywood, all which are used for subflooring, cabinetry and furniture.
  • Formaldehyde levels will decrease with time by as much as 50-75% over a period of 3 years, as they are offgassed (emitted into the atmosphere).
  • Levels of formaldehyde have been reduced significantly in the last 20–30 years as we have come to understand their impact on health.

Prof. Godish PhD (Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at Ball State University) wrote an article in 2000 dealing with a very similar issue which you might look at and is where I have gotten some of this information.

HUD building code

Today’s manufactured homes are constructed in accordance with the HUD building code, and your home should have a label on the exterior that the home has been inspected by an independent third party, insuring that it follows those requirements.

In regards to HUD emission standards, I found this statement, which applies to manufactured homes:

"The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also have been involved in the development of standards to specify maximum rates of emission of air contaminants from various building and household products.

For example, HUD has issued standards for wood products that limit the level of formaldehyde emissions to 0.2 ppm from plywood and 0.3 ppm from particleboard.... These standards were created to control formaldehyde emissions in pre-manufactured housing, where large amounts of pressed wood products are used. These emission standards are generally not sufficient to control formaldehyde levels down to 0.05 ppm, as recommended for indoor environments."

Check your home's MSDS

A place to start in researching your home would be with the manufacturer of the home, to see if they have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the materials that were used in the construction of your home.

  • The MSDS is a product’s summary prepared by the product’s manufacturer, describing any health hazards that the product might have. The MSDS would also have information regarding the levels of formaldehyde in the product.
  • You could compare these with the HUD standards to see if the materials are in compliance.

Outside help

Prior to hiring an Air Quality Testing Consultant, a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) could assess the problems and recommend tests.

A CIH is a knowledgeable professional well versed in the science aspects as well as the practical solutions. As these issues can be more complex, that person could save you from unnecessary expenses performing tests that don’t relate to your particular situation.

Also, he/she may be able to help in methods for correcting the problem.

Tagged In: home air quality, formaldehyde plywood

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