Trying to eliminate formaldehyde gas as a potential cause for some medical issues I've been experiencing.

I've been having acute idiopathic breathing difficulty and other strange symptoms for months since moving into a rental home while shopping for a home to purchase in neighboring areas. My wife is now experiencing similar breathing difficulty and fatigue... We've recently been consulting with several medical professionals and ENT/pulmonary specialists trying to pinpoint an environmental and/or dietary cause for the gradual onset of worsening symptoms we've been experiencing with little success (outside of possible adult onset anxiety disorders that have sprung up out of nowhere, which is a simple exclusionary hypothesis now being discussed at length with professionals).

Long story short, I have an engineering background and I'm uncomfortable throwing my hands up in the air and accepting the exclusionary diagnosis that both of our recent health conditions are contrived and mental when anyone who knows us would say we're both fundamentally averse to emotional drama of any kind.

With that said, this question is prompted by a breaking story my attending physician emailed to me yesterday as the following news broke:


I have located the recently installed laminate wood flooring that's installed in our rental home on the LL web site and I'd like to know if there's a clever way to test it for formaldehyde off-gassing. The home kits available on Amazon have few reviews and are running for $100+ for each - there has to be a better way... Thanks guys.

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    Why use a condescending lmgtfy link when you can just link directly to the article in question? Or better, summarize the article here so there's some context here in case that link stops working. – Johnny Mar 3 '15 at 23:18
  • Was the laminate flooring you found on the LL website manufactured in China? Those are the only ones that have issues according to the 60 minutes report. I think you may be better off looking for environmental engineering firms (or home inspectors that can refer you to someone) to do the testing since the problems seem to be so serious. – OrganicLawnDIY Mar 4 '15 at 0:12

$100 for a test kit doesn't seem so bad. Sure it's not as cheap as a radon test kit, but it's a much more specialty item.

I would get one and see what it says, then go from there.

(Looking up that Lumber Liquidaters thing it's not clear to me whether the lumber in question is actually dangerous or just mislabeled. Also, off-gassing is generally worst in the first few months... was any of the flooring installed recently?)


There's the simple experimental approach - move out (to a motel if need be), see if you feel better, then spend more money finding out what it is, and sue the landlord to recover the cost of testing, relocation, etc. Makes nice headlines if they get uncooperative and you have hard data.

I think what you'd want (rather than "looking for formaldehyde") would be to run a gas chromatography or gas chromatography/mass spectrometry test on an air sample from the home, (or have a portable unit brought to the home for testing in place) and find out what IS in it. Never assume...

Could be free if you happen to know someone with one of those in their lab, not too expensive if you can find a local college or university that's willing to run a test for you, or expensive if you need to go to a full-on consulting laboratory to get the test run - the machines are bit on the spendy side. Or you may be able to rent one for testing in place.

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    I'm not sure your plan to sue the landlord for all kinds of relocation and testing expenses is well-advised... generally you can only recoup costs if the landlord willfully ignores a problem. It seems like the formaldehyde issue is merely speculative at this point. – Hank Mar 3 '15 at 23:12
  • I suppose it's always possible you could move out, feel better, and have the landlord in a million who will actually investigate and remediate rather than willfully ignoring it. And the cost of the initial move out, and any testing, won't be recoverable if the testing finds nothing. But if the problem is real and you have one of the other 999,999 landlords, it's a method. Being poisoned by your house, if it's not all in your head, is fairly serious and probably worth risking a bit of your money to confirm. If confirmed, you should try to get some of that back. – Ecnerwal Mar 4 '15 at 0:04
  • Unless he can convince a local health agency to declare that the house is a health hazard (thus forcing the landlord to take action to provide a habitable dwelling), I think he's going to have a hard time forcing the landlord to pay moving expenses. He can probably get the landlord to waive or reduce any early termination fee in the lease, but I'd be really surprised if a landlord pays moving expenses. In any case, if he feels the house is causing a health issue, he should move out. – Johnny Mar 4 '15 at 7:49

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