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What is a formaldehyde testing method?

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Quick Answer

A formaldehyde testing method is a lab process that determines if any formaldehyde is in a given sample, and if so, how much. Formaldehyde is toxic, so testing methods are a matter of special interest to agencies aimed at preventing pollution, ensuring safe food and drink, or securing workplace safety.

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Full Answer

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, is widely used in the manufacturing of lumber, paint, and textiles, and evaporates readily. Because it easily changes state from liquid to gas, formaldehyde fumes can cause insidious exposure to people who have not had direct physical contact with formaldehyde-containing items. Lab testing by government agencies, third-party labs or product manufacturers ensure that formaldehyde levels remain within a safe range.

Some testing methods include headspace extraction, a method by which the item is placed in a sealed container and any formaldehyde fumes it releases are absorbed by a solution of water. After a given amount of time, the water is then analyzed for the presence of formaldehyde.

Another method, recommended by OSHA, draws air samples into test tubes coated with a reagent that absorbs formaldehyde. The reagent is then chemically removed, and the results undergo gas chromatography to determine their formaldehyde levels.

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