How can one tell whether one’s symptoms or health problems have been caused by exposure to formaldehyde? - Katrina/FEMA trailer occupant
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Formaldehyde exposures even at concentrations as low as 0.04 ppm have been shown to apparently cause sub-clinical respiratory inflammatory responses which can be detected by expired breath analyses to determine nitric oxide (NO) in one’s breath. Such an analysis is the only known test that can demonstrate that formaldehyde can cause adverse health effects at concentrations found in building environments.
In addition to its effects on the respiratory system, formaldehyde can also affect the central nervous system (CNS). Common CNS symptoms associated with formaldehyde exposures in buildings include frequent headaches, unusual fatigue, lassitude and disturbed sleep.
There are certain patterns in symptom/health responses to formaldehyde levels in indoor environments. These include:
- Onset of symptoms in time after moving into a formaldehyde-contaminated indoor environment
- Symptoms most severe in those individuals who spend the most time in the formaldehyde-contaminated environment (e.g., full-time homemakers, pre-school age children)
- As a general rule symptoms are more severe in young children
- Symptoms diminish in severity when away (e.g., visiting parents for several days) and recur on returning
- Symptom severity increases with increasing formaldehyde concentration
- Symptoms diminish in severity when the structure is ventilated by opening windows
- Symptoms increase in severity on very warm, humid days
- Symptoms diminish in severity on cool relatively dry days
- Symptoms are fewer and less severe in adult males under the age of 65
- Symptoms generally decrease in severity over time
- Symptoms reported by visitors to the formaldehyde contaminated environment.
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