Assessing the exposure to formaldehyde of flooring installers during the installation of laminated flooring products
Background: Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC) present in resins that bind the wood fibre core of laminated flooring products. Installation of laminate flooring involves performing certain procedures that increase the chance of formaldehyde volatilizing into the atmosphere. Exposure to formaldehyde can lead to acute health effects such as watery eyes, nausea, skin irritation, wheezing, and even death. Formaldehyde is also classified as a probable carcinogen and long-term exposure, even at lower doses, may lead to the development of cancers such as leukemia and sinus cancer. Method: GASTEC formaldehyde 91D passive dositubes were used to quantify the concentrations of formaldehyde present at laminate flooring installation job-sites. The dositubes were worn by two installers who each completed 5 flooring installations over a 15-day period. Between the two installers, there were 3 jobs using Chinese-made laminate, 3 jobs using German-made laminate, and 4 jobs using Canadian-made laminate. A fresh dositube was attached to the belt or collar of each installer at the beginning of the work day and worn while the installer was present at the job-site. In total, 30 samples were collected to which conversion factors were applied to change the units from ppm-hours to an 8-hour time-weighted average TWA. Comparisons were made between Chinese-made, Canadian-made, and German-made laminates and the mean of all 30 readings was compared to the Operational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 8-hour TWA standard of 0.75 ppm. Results: A one-sample T-test indicated that the mean concentration of formaldehyde that the test subjects were exposed did not exceed the 0.75 ppm TWA standard (p=0.000). Further analysis via ANOVA revealed that there was no statistical difference when comparing TWAs stemming from installation of Chinese-made, German-made, and Canadian-made laminate flooring (p = 0.200). Conclusion: Based on the results, it was concluded that flooring installers working for the Laminate Warehouse in Maple Ridge, BC, are not at risk of developing acute health effects from installing laminate flooring. However, the installers are still exposed to formaldehyde on a daily basis and chronic exposure could increase the risk of developing cancer. In addition, there was no observed relationship between origin of laminate flooring and levels of formaldehyde exposure.