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Removing Formaldehyde

Removing Formaldehyde

Removing Formaldehyde

Just bought a used 5th wheel RV and moved into it yesterday. Already my wife is getting dizzy and she is suspecting formaldehyde to be the culprit, but I suspect otherwise due to the age of the trailer - 2007, 38 foot Bighorn. I think any outgassing should have occurred already, with the problem being something else. However...

She has a lot of allergies and is very chemically sensitive too, so it is possible even very low levels could affect her. The problem seemed to manifest itself when she opened the cupboard doors and drawers to fill them. Possible buildup of the gas in a confined space over an extended time?

The questions...

1. How long should it take a mobile home or trailer to outgas, and to what level?

2. Are there any chemical monitors or detectors out there for formaldehyde.

3. If present, how do you remove it? I have read articles on the net on the subject, but that is the net.

Thanks in advance for any responses. I was thinking of posting this on an RV forum, but it's just not the same... bigsmile

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: Removing Formaldehyde

If your wife is chemically sensitive, those real sensitivities have probably given her over time a psychosomatic response to any unfamiliar/chemical odour, which triggers the same symptoms as a real exposure- which is still a very real problem for her. Either way, if she's truly sensitive to the amount of formaldehyde that may accumulate inside a particle board cupboard 7 years after manufacture, she's going to be very tough to protect.

Onset of symptoms in ordinary people is apparently 3-5 ppm for a longterm exposure, but who knows what your wife's trigger concentration is, or what it is in fact that's triggering her. That's actually a pretty high concentration- with sufficient ventilation, you'd have to evaporate the entire mass of formaldehyde in the cupboards to maintain that concentration.

I'd suggest opening all the cupboard doors and airing the thing out thoroughly between uses and especially while you're in there- active ventilation with a fan etc. Whatever steady state concentration has been achieved after 7 yrs is going to be pretty low, but who knows how low it needs to go to make your wife symptom free. As to chemical adsorbents, none are particularly good for formaldehyde- it's a small molecule with a low boiling point, but you could try just bulk physical adsorption using a box of sodium bicarb in each cupboard, replacing frequently- that has a hope of working in the enclosed space of the cupboards but not in the bulk of the vehicle. Some plants metabolize formaldehyde- spider plants being a common houseplant which apparently does so. Paints and other vapour release retarders aren't all that effective against emissions at very low concentrations, and have their own sensitivity concerns- the material is already diffusing through solid particleboard and the melamine layer on its surface, so a little extra paint isn't going to slow it down much.

RE: Removing Formaldehyde

Retail and commercial detectors are available. I don't think any are better than your nose, and especially not your wife's nose.

The formaldehyde MSDS's I've seen list sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium carbonate (baking powder), and sodium bisuphite as "neutralizers".

Sorry, I have no experience treating this problem. I understand it can be a MIGHTY issue depending on one's sensitivity to formaldehyde. The RV forums may be a good reference. Good luck.

Good luck,

Technically, the glass is always full - 1/2 air and 1/2 water.

RE: Removing Formaldehyde

Much better answers here than in the RV forum I am a member of. But then gain I knew that... bigcheeks

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

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