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Advances in Forestry Letters (AFL) Volume 2 Issue 2, June 2013 


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Formaldehyde in Indoor Air of New 
Appartments in Drama, Greece 

Antonios Papadopoulos 1 , George Mantanis 2 , Konstantinos Katsinikas 1 , Michalis Michael 1 

^Technological Educational Institute of Kavala, Branch of Drama, Department of Forestry and Management of 
Natural Environment, TK 66100, Drama, Greece 

technological Educational Institute of Larissa, Branch of Karditsa, Department of Wood and Furniture 
Technology-Design, TK 43100, Karditsa, Greece 

* 1 antoniosl974@hotmail.com; 2 mantanis@teilar.gr 


Abstract 

This work aimed at evaluating the indoor concentrations of 
formaldehyde in twenty five new apartments in the city of 
Drama, Northern Greece. By means of a formaldehyde meter, 
two series of measurements were made in September 2009 
and September 2010. Early morning measurements were 
made in the living rooms, bedrooms, kitchen rooms and 
child rooms. Initial measurements showed that average 
concentrations of formaldehyde exceeded by far the limit of 
0.1 ppm set in most of the European countries for 
formaldehyde concentration in residential environments. 
After a 30-minute natural ventilation in the apartments, 
formaldehyde concentrations remained at the levels higher 
than 1.0 ppm only in three apartments. In the following 
months (September 2009 to September 2010), a systematic 
ventilation by opening windows took place not only in the 
morning but also in the late afternoon. In September 2010, 
measurements were performed in the same apartments 
indicating that all apartments investigated had 
formaldehyde concentrations much lower than 1.0 ppm and 
obviously the indoor air environment was much cleaner. 

Keywords 

Formaldehyde; Ejnission; Air 

Introduction 

Indoor air quality is an important issue because people 
spend most of their time in indoor environments 
where there may be more pollutants and higher 
concentrations than outdoors (Godish 1989a, US EPA 
1991, Li et al. 2001). In particular, the levels of volatile 
organic compounds (VOCs) found indoors are 
generally reported to be greater than outdoors (Ilgen et 
al. 2001, Posniak et al. 2005, Khoder 2006). 
Consequently, indoor air quality is liable to influence 
human health compared to outdoor air quality. Poor 
indoor air quality has been linked to a number of 
symptoms, which the World Health Organisation has 
defined together as Sick Building Syndrome (US EPA 


1991, Kostiainen 1995). It is well known that the most 
common indoor pollutant is formaldehyde (Dally et al. 
1981, Breysse 1985, Brown et al. 1996, Mantanis and 
Markessini 1998, Hodgson et al. 2000). Formaldehyde 
is classified to be toxic and irritating to the respiratory 
tract, eyes and skin (National Research Council 1981) 
and carcinogenic to humans at high concentrations 
(The Japan Society for Occupational Health 2002, 
I ARC 2004). 

The sources and levels of the VOCs in indoor air vary 
depending on the type of building. Major sources are 
construction materials, furnishings, cosmetics and 
textiles, paints, carpets, architectural finishes, 
insulation, fabrics and paper, varnishes and solvents, 
adhesives, cleaning compounds as well as combustion 
by-products (Samfield 1992, Kelly et al. 1999, Guo et al. 
2000, Guo and Murray 2001, Kwok et al. 2003). 
Combustion, particularly tobacco smoking, and 
photocopying or laser printing on paper, strongly 
influences the indoor concentrations of VOCs (Etkin 
1996, Baek and Jenkins 2001). 

Formaldehyde concentration in new houses has been 
reported to be at very high levels (Dally et al. 1981, 
Godish 1989b, Kostiainen 1995, Brown 2000, Khoder et 
al. 2000, Mantanis 2007). Evidently, kitchen closets and 
cabinets in new apartments alone have the potential to 
cause residential formaldehyde to rise higher than 0.1 
ppm (Godish 1989b). Zhao et al. (2004) also reported 
that, in freshly decorated houses, formaldehyde 
concentrations were up to 0.41 ppm. In Australia, 
measurements in suburban Melbourne residences 
more than a year after construction identify twenty 
seven airborne toxics including the carcinogens 
benzene, formaldehyde and styrene. The study 
concluded that occupants of new homes can be 
exposed to up to 20 times the maximum allowable 


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Advances in Forestry Letters (AFL) Volume 2 Issue 2, June 2013 


limits of indoor air toxics (Brown 2000). The 
measurements indicated that long-term indoor air 
pollution is likely from new building materials 
emitting formaldehyde such as manufactured wood- 
based panels used principally in flooring, furniture 
and cabinets. Mente§e and Guild (2006) reported that 
formaldehyde concentration inside homes, although 
averaged at around 0.06 ppm, rise in some residences 
as high as 0.71 ppm depending upon indoor and 
outdoor temperature, room age of house and density 
of the plywood furniture. Khoder et al. (2000) found 
that in new flats, the maximum formaldehyde 
concentration was up to 0.35 ppm in residential homes 
in Cairo and noted that air temperature, relative 
humidity and age of the flat were the main factors 
affecting the emission and concentration of 
formaldehyde. Minami et al. (2002) reported that in a 
new private house, formaldehyde concentrations 
ranged in between 0.07 and 0.23 ppm during the first 
months, while natural ventilation by opening 
windows was effective to lower the formaldehyde 
concentration in the indoor air. 

Previous studies on indoor air quality in Greece have 
focused on volatile organic compounds and 
formaldehyde in schools and occupational 
environments (Tsitouridou and Papachristou 1991, 
Siskos et al. 2001, Synnefa et al. 2003, Valavanidis and 
Vatista 2006). Therefore, there is a lack of information 
on the indoor air formaldehyde levels in new houses 
and apartments in Greece. This study thus aimed at 
the reduction of that lack by evaluating the indoor 
concentrations of formaldehyde in thirty brand new 
apartments. 

Materials and Methods 

Formaldehyde measurements in the indoor air were 
made in twenty five brand new apartments in the city 
of Drama, Greece. The apartments had been very 
recently occupied (one to three months already) by 
their residents and were freshly painted. The majority 
of materials, i.e. cabinets, closets, buffets, were all 
made of melamine paper or veneer laminated 
particleboard or fibreboard panels. Most of the 
insulation materials, carpets and fabrics were also 
brand new. Indoor air formaldehyde measurements 
were made in the following areas: (a) living room, (b) 
bedroom, (c) kitchen cabinets and (d) child room. 

A formaldehyde metermodel Triple Plus+ was used in 
this study with which it was possible to estimate 
formaldehyde concentrations of indoor air with a 
relatively limited accuracy. Before each measurement. 


a calibration of the meter was taking place in the 
outdoor environment, where the formaldehyde 
concentration was zero. 

For the measurements, the meter was turned on for 
three minutes and the formaldehyde concentration in 
each room (in parts per million, ppm) was recorded. In 
addition, a temperature meter was used to record the 
air temperature during each measurement. The 
temperature inside each cabinet was also measured. 

Two series of formaldehyde measurements were 
carried out in this work. The first series of 
measurements was made in September 2009. Attention 
was given so that a set of measurements was made 
during early morning hours prior to any ventilation 
within the apartments. Following, windows were kept 
open in each apartment for a ventilation time of 30 
minutes and after that a second set of measurements 
was taken. In the next six months (September 2009 to 
September 2010), occupants were advised to 
undertake systematic ventilation every day in the new 
apartments not only in the morning but also in the late 
afternoon. In addition, no smoking occurred within 
the apartments. In September 2010, the second series 
of formaldehyde measurements was carried out 
likewise in the selected apartments, as described above. 

Results and Discussion 

Table 1 summarises the results obtained in September 
2009. Measurements revealed that formaldehyde 
concentrations in all rooms were at high levels (>1.0 
ppm). It becomes obvious that these levels exceed by 
far the limit of 0.1 ppm set in most of the European 
countries for formaldehyde concentration in 
residential environments. More specifically, for the 
measurements made in living rooms, in 14 apartments 
(56%) formaldehyde concentrations ranged from 1 to 2 
ppm. In the other rooms the situation was even worse, 
since in 23 measurements made in bedroom and 
kitchen (92%), formaldehyde concentrations ranged 
from 1 to 2 ppm. Similar results were obtained from 
the measurements made in child room. 

Following the first set of measurements, a 30-minute 
natural ventilation by opening windows took place in 
the apartments. A remarkable decrease in the 
concentrations of formaldehyde was noted. For 
bedrooms, in only 3 apartments, formaldehyde 
concentrations were found ranging from 1 to 2 ppm. 
In the rest (22), formaldehyde concentrations were 
lower than 1 ppm, while in 13 of them, a zero 
concentration was measured. Similarly, for living 
rooms, kitchen rooms and child rooms, in all 25 


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Advances in Forestry Letters (AFL) Volume 2 Issue 2, June 2013 


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apartments, formaldehyde concentrations were lower 
than 1 ppm, 18 of which zero concentration was 
measured. 

The results obtained in September 2010 are shown in 
Table 2. It has to be mentioned that systematic daily 
ventilation was carried out in the apartments 
throughout the period September 2009 to September 
2010. Indoor air formaldehyde concentrations in living 
rooms and bedrooms dropped down dramatically, in 
most cases at levels below 1 ppm. More specifically, 
for the measurements made in kitchen rooms, in 6 
apartments (24%) formaldehyde concentrations 
ranged from 1 to 2 ppm. In the other rooms, the 
situation was even better, since in 21 measurements 
made in bedrooms (84%), formaldehyde 
concentrations ranged from 1 to 2 ppm. Similar results 
were obtained from the measurements made in child 
rooms and living rooms. Zero formaldehyde 
concentrations were recorded in the mentioned areas 
in all of the 25 apartments after a 30-minute natural 
ventilation. It is apparent that the results obtained in 
September 2009 show a much cleaner environment in 
all rooms investigated in these new apartments, as 
compared with the results of Table 1. 

TABLE 1 FORMALDEYDE CONCENTRATIONS IN INDOOR AIR 


OF 25 NEW APPARTMENTS (AS IN SEPTEMBER 2009) 


Area 

< 1 ppm | 1-2 ppm 


Before ventilation (avg. temperature 25.8°C) 

Living room 

u 

14 

Bedroom 

2 

23 

Kitchen room 

2 

23 

Child room 

3 

22 


After ventilation (avg. temperature 23.9°C) | 

Living room 

25 

0 

Bedroom 

22 

3 

Kitchen room 

25 

0 

Child room 

25 

0 


TABLE 2 FORMALDEYDE CONCENTRATIONS IN INDOOR AIR 
OF 25 NEW APPARTMENTS (AS IN SEPTEMBER 2010) 


Area 

< 1 ppm | 1-2 ppm 


Before ventilation (avg. temperature 18.9°C) 

Living room 

23 

2 

Bedroom 

21 

4 

Kitchen room 

19 

6 

Child room 

23 

2 


After ventilation (avg. temperature 16.3°C) | 

Living room 

25 

0 

Bedroom 

25 

0 

Kitchen room 

25 

0 

Child room 

25 

0 


Conclusions 

It was found that indoor air formaldehyde 
concentrations in 25 brand new apartments in Drama, 


Greece were exceptionally high. In most cases, 
concentrations exceeded by far the level of 1 ppm. 
Although this phenomenon is quite common in new 
houses, the formaldehyde levels observed in this work 
are extraordinarily high exceeding by far the 
established non-occupational limits. Moreover, it is 
concluded that systematic ventilation by opening 
windows in new apartments on a daily basis can lower 
formaldehyde concentrations dramatically after a 
period of six months. 

In addition, this work is helpful local customers being 
informed about the facts that: 

> melamine paper or veneer laminated wood- 
based panels (and subsequently furniture 
products) of classes El and E0 emit much 
lesser amounts of formaldehyde, and therefore 
special attention should be given in the course 
of new apartments furnished, 

> natural ventilation of rooms in brand new 
apartments is necessary, especially in the 
summer when high temperatures favour 
formaldehyde emission, and 

> smoking inside the new houses should be 
avoided. 

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