Home Air Check
What is Home Air Check?
Home Air Check is the advanced analysis of an air sample collected by you in your home. The test provides a report describing several aspects of your home air quality:
- Total concentration of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – general indoor air quality indicator
- Total concentration of Mold Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs) – indicator of active mold growth
- Contamination Index™ categories – several common product or activity areas that often impact your home air quality with characterization of your home in relation to thousands of other homes.
Who is Prism?
Prism Analytical Technologies, Inc. is the developer of Home Air Check. Prism is an air testing laboratory accredited by the AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs (AIHA-LAP), LLC in the Industrial Hygiene accreditation program for GC/MS Field of Testing as documented by the Scope of Accreditation Certificate and associated Scope. Prism has been developing novel air monitoring and testing techniques and providing air consultative services to Fortune 100 and 500 companies since 1992.
Why use Home Air Check and not some other method?
With a single test, Home Air Check provides a comprehensive picture of chemical levels that the occupants are breathing when in the home. It also indicates a level of actively growing mold present in the home. Since these chemicals are tested simultaneously, this sophisticated analysis becomes less expensive. Also, the samples are collected without the use of toxic chemicals, so there are no health risks using Home Air Check. No other home air test can match the level of completeness, sophistication, prediction, and value of Home Air Check.
How are you different from your competitors?
Home Air Check and Prism Analytical Technologies are significantly different from our competition in a number of ways:
- Prism is the only laboratory to offer a prediction of the likely sources of chemicals in the home, so that an action plan can be created.
- Prism is the only laboratory with enough sensitivity to pick up mold VOCs in the home.
- Prism is the only laboratory that will perform a full GC-MS analysis (detailed chemical analysis) for under $300.
- Prism is the only laboratory that you can easily get professional support after your analysis. That is we will talk to you about your report for no added fee and we are easy to reach.
- Prism has been a leader in the US of using TDT or thermal desorption tubes for indoor air analysis. These tubes allow for easy low cost collection and analysis of your indoor air sample.
- Prism has been an innovator in developing tests that try to look at all the chemicals in your air, not a select set defined by regulatory groups.
- There is no other product like Home Air Check on the market. With this product you receive the following:
- The total level of VOCs in your home.
- The total level of mold VOCs in your home.
- The predicted sources of the VOCs in your home so you can improve your air quality.
- Phone, email or chat with a professional about your report if you have any questions or concerns
- You can get a $400 professional product for less than $150.
Is the Home Air Check test as effective as having a professional come into my house to conduct an air quality test?
Home Air Check was designed so anyone can easily use it in their own home. After you receive your results we provide telephone or chat line assistance to answer any questions you might have and to help you improve your air quality. Professionals would use a test similar to Home Air Check to find the chemical sources in your home that might be causing you to have health issues as well as other tests to look for other things such as radon, carbon monoxide, etc.. Professionals can provide a visual inspection of the home that we cannot provide, and they might be able to identify the source without testing. However, the cost of a having a Professional come to your home could be expensive. If you wish to go in that direction, we could recommend someone in our network.
How accurate is Home Air Check?
Home Air Check has been designed to identify the possible chemical sources that are present in your home air so that a solution can be developed to reduce or remove them and improve your air quality.
Chemical compound, or VOC, concentrations can vary throughout the home and change with time, so the absolute concentration is less important than which VOCs are present. The presence of each compound tells something about the home and how to potentially improve the air quality of the home.
My family and I don’t feel well most of time. Could there be a problem with my air quality?
Many times we just can’t understand why we feel sick and tired on a daily basis, and why we develop symptoms that worsen over time. For instance, those who are living in homes contaminated by mold may not be able to smell any odor and may be unaware that a problem exists. The sudden onset of food allergies and digestive problems can go undiagnosed, or even misdiagnosed. And long after you’ve finished using a product containing VOCs, you could be feeling its effects. If you or a loved one has unexplained allergic reactions or illnesses occurring on a continual basis, the source of the problem could be indoor air pollutants.
What are some of the symptoms people complain about due to poor air quality?
Breathing bad air can cause many health effects, from mildly irritating to extremely serious. Symptoms such as frequent headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, confusion, coughing, wheezing, itchy eyes, nose and throat irritation can be indicators that the quality of air in the home is poor – especially if these symptoms subside once you leave the house. Other more serious health problems that can arise with poor indoor air quality are asthma exacerbation, digestive problems, and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Some air contaminants are so harmful that they can even cause cancer.
What are my risks if I don’t test my home?
What you don’t know about the air in your home could hurt you and your family. Many of the things we are exposed to every day in our homes, including products and materials we use on a routine basis, are considered harmful chemicals. In addition, many areas of the country have problems with humidity, and mold is often found actively growing in homes, silently causing more health concerns. There are serious health risks with repeated and prolonged exposure to VOCs and mold. These risks are elevated for individuals already suffering from chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma, allergies, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Some VOCs are considered Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) and have been linked to cancer. Our homes are supposed to be our safe-havens – not places where we are put at risk. With such a comprehensive, inexpensive test available, why wouldn’t you want to give yourself peace of mind that you’re doing everything you can to protect the well-being of the ones you love most?
How reliable is Home Air Check and the reports?
The Home Air Check test is analyzed by Prism Analytical Technologies, Inc. (Laboratory ID 166272), an air testing laboratory accredited by the AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs (AIHA-LAP), LLC in the Industrial Hygiene accreditation program for GC/MS Field of Testing as documented by the Scope of Accreditation Certificate and associated Scope.
In order to become accredited, a laboratory must undergo a rigorous application and review process every two years. This accreditation process takes months to complete and each laboratory must formally demonstrate its competence to conduct testing, thereby increasing the credibility of the testing results. This conformity assessment encompasses all operations of the lab, including management, technical competence of the lab personnel, the validity of the testing methodology, and the validity of the results. Technical competence of a lab depends upon its quality control systems, plus qualifications, training and experience of the lab staff, demonstration of proficiency in testing, appropriate handling of samples, suitable testing environment, properly calibrated and maintained equipment, traceability to national standards and accurate reporting.
Therefore, you can rely on the accuracy and validity of the Home Air Check test and its results because of Prism’s status as an AIHA accredited laboratory.
Will the test results stand up in a court of law?
As with any prediction, however, there is some uncertainty and if a significant issue is predicted, more detailed follow-up testing by an air quality professional is usually recommended.
What do the reports look like?
How long will it take to receive my analysis report?
Once the sample is received by Prism, it will be analyzed within 5 business days and an easy-to-read report that details the levels of VOCs and MVOCs (actively growing mold) plus a list of the predicted sources of the VOCs will be emailed to you.
When I receive my report will other information or support be provided?
Your analysis report will describe the levels of VOCs and actively growing mold in the home, as well as provide a Contamination Index™ that lists the predicted sources of air contaminants and suggestions for removal from the home. If extremely high levels of air contaminants are found, Prism will offer you assistance in finding an Indoor Air Quality Professional that can address your concerns and help you determine the next steps in improving your indoor air quality.
I was shocked to see that gasoline was listed on my report as being an “elevated” VOC source in our home. We have no gasoline products in the house and we don’t have issues with vehicle exhaust coming into the house from outdoors. How could this be?
Gasoline and petroleum VOCs are surprisingly very common in homes. They come from a number of possible sources that are stored in attached garages, including: gasoline cans; lawn equipment (mowers, trimmers, leaf blowers); recreational vehicles (ATVs, mini-bikes, etc.); and gasoline-powered generators. In addition, petroleum products like gasoline, kerosene, and oil can spill onto the garage or basement floor and become trapped in the cracks or subflooring beneath. Also, even the smallest amount of gasoline on clothing, rags, or the hands can affect the levels of VOCs the Home Air Check test detects. It is very important that you remove any potential sources of petroleum products from the garage or basement, and store them in a detached shed or other structure, away from the home. These products are toxic and contain carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) such as benzene and toluene.
We use very few scented products, so I don’t understand how the “odors/fragrances” section of our report could be categorized as “severe.” Some of these products have citrus in them, which has a smell. Would that have shown up on the test?
Many fragrances, like citrus or pine, would show up in this category. While many chemical compounds can contribute to odorants and fragrances, a chemical class called terpenes is dominant in this case. Terpenes occur naturally in a variety of plants, although most are synthetically manufactured for fragrance and flavor purposes. Many essential oils contain relatively large amounts of this type of chemical compound. There are some additional sources for these compounds besides fragrance and flavor products, such as turpentine, pharmaceutical products, insect repellants, cosmetics, cleaners, and air fresheners.
We use a brand of cleaning products that claim to be “non-VOC” and contain no fragrances. We don’t drink alcohol and don’t use hand sanitizers. So why did we receive an “elevated” result for alcohol products on our report?
Many fragrances, like citrus or pine, would show up in this category. While many chemical compounds can contribute to odorants and fragrances, a chemical class called terpenes is dominant in this case. Terpenes occur naturally in a variety of plants, although most are synthetically manufactured for fragrance and flavor purposes. Many essential oils contain relatively large amounts of this type of chemical compound. There are some additional sources for these compounds besides fragrance and flavor products, such as turpentine, pharmaceutical products, insect repellents, cosmetics, cleaners, and air fresheners.
Is it possible to get the actual chemical data from our test?
No, we’re sorry, but the specific chemical data are not available. Home Air Check is a low-cost air survey test that is designed to provide you with easy-to-understand general information regarding the primary sources of VOCs in your home. A complete chemical listing is not useful without an interpretation by a degreed chemist, which is very costly, and therefore, is not available with Home Air Check. If you feel that you need more extensive testing that will provide the detailed chemical information, we recommend that you contact an industrial hygienist who specializes in indoor air quality issues.
None of the VOC source categories in the Contamination Index (CI) mention carpet. I’ve read that many terrible things can live in carpet. Which of the CI categories might have contributions from carpet?
If you are referring to biological organisms living in carpet, like dust mites, the Home Air Check test does not test for those, with the exception of mold. However, it is true that carpet is often a sink for many things that could cause problems. We typically recommend hard surface floors with area rugs that can be removed and cleaned if at all possible.
Our report came back with lots of elevated levels on the VOC source categories. We use fragrance-free products and non-toxic cleaners; however, we are living in a rented apartment. Do you have advice on how to improve the air in a rental unit?
Rented apartment units can be especially difficult to deal with regarding air quality because you usually do not have much control over the structure of the building, and VOC sources from your neighbors can easily enter your air. Also, previous tenants sometimes leave behind traces of themselves that are not immediately apparent, and the leasing company or agent may have performed renovations or other activities that can also leave traces of contamination. If you know your neighbors well enough, ask them if they have or use any of the products listed in those categories that came back as Elevated or Severe. We have encountered several instances where a neighbor’s unit had a significant effect on air quality and they were not even aware there was a problem. After you have looked for any possible sources and removed or contained them (e.g., cleaning products can be stored in a container with a tight fitting lid when not in use, apply personal care products with the bathroom exhaust fan running, etc.), the next step is to reduce the amount of the remaining sources by increasing the amount of ventilation, either fresh or filtered re-circulated air. Most homes do not have adequate air changes per hour so this aspect should be addressed regardless of the air quality levels. In an apartment, this is more difficult, however, because you have only limited ability to control the air exchange rate. Another option for difficult air quality issues is to use an air purifier. This purifier must include a VOC filter or removal system as well as a particulate filter. Often, this type of purifier includes something to remove biological contaminants, too. When run continuously, one or more air purifier units can reduce the VOCs by as much as half. For a recommendation on air purifiers that remove VOCs Visit http://homeaircheck.com/remedies/products/
Do you share the report with any governmental or private organizations?
For confidentiality reasons, we will not share your Home Air Check report with anyone other than whom you approve. This also means that we require written (on the Testing Form or in an email) approval to share your report with someone of your choosing (attorney, lanlord, spouse, etc.).
How much does Home Air Check cost?
Home Air Check is extremely affordable and is available with different pricing options depending on whether the kit is ordered with or without a Formaldehyde test.
How can Home Air Check be advanced and sophisticated, yet still be so inexpensive?
Prism has spent the last 2 decades developing state-of-the-art testing methods that are effective for the collection and analysis of ambient and indoor air samples at a very low cost.
Does the price listed cover all the costs? Are there any additional costs?
The price you pay covers all costs associated with the test. We provide you with the sampling kit to use to collect the air sample, the pre-paid postage to return the sampling equipment to us, the analysis of the results, and any telephone or chat line support after the results are emailed you, to help resolve any issues that may have been found.
The only additional cost is the shipping fee to send the sampling kit to you.
**Non-Return of sampling equipment may result in additional charges. Please see our return policy for additional information.
What do I purchase from you? Or does your company come out to my home and perform the test?
Home Air Check was designed to be a do-it-yourself air quality assessment. When you purchase a Home Air Check test, we ship a small sampling device directly to your home for you to collect the air sample. After collecting the air sample, you then return the sampling device and sample to our lab where our chemists will perform an analysis of your air using our sophisticated instruments (Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry or Fluorescence Spectroscopy) . After the analysis is completed, we will email you the results of your air test. Phone and online chat support is available, if needed, to help you understand your results. The price covers all of these steps, including the shipment of the air sample back to our lab.
How does it work
How does Home Air Check work?
After you place an order for a Home Air Check test kit, we send you a small sampling device to collect an air sample in your home. The sampling time takes about 2 hours. After the sample is collected, return the complete kit to our laboratory, where we will analyze the air sample using sophisticated state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation for hundreds of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that can be found in home air. In addition, we will look for 21 specific mold compounds that can be generated when mold is actively growing in a home. A detailed report is then generated. In this report will be a Total VOC concentration level – a total of all the VOCs found in your home. The US Green Building Council recommends a TVOC level of less than 500 ng/L to be considered a healthy environment. (The median US home is about 1,200 ng/L.) A total concentration of Mold VOCs is also listed. Generally, this number should be less than 8 ng/L or you have active mold growth you need to find. The report also includes a Contamination Index, which gives you a prediction of which sources or materials in your home may be responsible for these contaminating chemicals, such as gasoline, paint, adhesives, odorants, personal care products, etc. This report is emailed to you within 5 business days of receipt of your air sample. We can provide phone or chat line support to answer any questions you have and to help you improve your air quality.
Can Home Air Check detect a specific chemical and can it tell me how much of it was detected?
Home Air Check can detect many chemical compounds in the air; however, the test results don’t name the specific chemicals found or their concentrations. The Home Air Check test is designed to be a lower-cost screening test that uses an air sample to scan for many chemical compounds, which are assigned to source categories so that the non-chemist, i.e., average consumer, can use this information to find possible problem areas in your home. Those categories are classified as lifestyle or building-related, and include many common sources like personal care, odorants/fragrances, paints/varnishes, and other adhesives and solvents. You can view a sample report here, to see exactly what the report will look like and what type of information is reported.
Each category is given a value of Normal, Moderate, Elevated, or Severe, and guidelines are given as to what types of products could be included in that category so that the homeowner can locate them and contain them or remove them from the home completely. From this report, you should be able to ascertain whether or not a specific chemical that you may be concerned about could be in your home air, and what types of products may be contributing to the air pollution.
Our laboratory can perform a much more comprehensive analysis that will give detailed information about specific chemicals, but those tests are performed by professionals because of their much higher cost and the need for interpretation by a chemist.
After you receive your report
What does Home Air Check test for?
What does Home Air Check test for?
Home Air Check tests for the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in your home air. VOCs are also referred to as airborne, or gaseous, chemicals. Home Air Check uses these VOCs to determine:
- The Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC) level which is used to describe the general air quality in your home.
- The Total Mold Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs) which indicates actively growing mold in your home. When mold is in its active growth phase it releases chemicals into the air, called Mold Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs).
- The Contamination Index™ which indicates the most likely sources of the chemical contamination in your home so you can take action to improve your home air quality.
While Home Air Check provides an excellent overview of your home air, there are possible home contaminants that Home Air Check cannot test for. Below is a list of some of these other contaminants that may require different testing methods.
- Sewer Gas
- Chinese Dry Wall
- Live rodents or dead animals
- Animal urine
- Manufacture of illegal drugs
- Spray foam insulation
- CARB-2 compliance for laminate flooring
- Nicotine or tobacco smoke (separately offered by Home Air Check)
- Carbon Monoxide (CO)
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Additional details regarding these contaminants can be found in separate Common Questions below.
Does Home Air Check test for dust, pollen, and pet dander?
No, currently Home Air Check cannot monitor for dust, pollen, pet dander, and mold spores because these contaminants are airborne particles, not airborne gases. Home Air Check detects gaseous air contaminants that can’t be seen with the naked eye. However, we do partner closely with other laboratories that perform these types of analyses and can recommend one if you are interested.
Does Home Air Check determine if Radon is present?
No, Home Air Check does not currently monitor for Radon.
Does Home Air Check test for asbestos in the air?
No. Asbestos is a fiber and Home Air Check does not monitor for fibrous materials.
Does Home Air Check detect live rodents or dead animals trapped behind walls?
Home Air Check can detect some of the chemical compounds associated with decaying animal flesh, but cannot definitively identify the presence of dead animals. Currently, the test cannot detect for animal infestations, e.g., rodent droppings.
Can Home Air Check detect illegal drugs being made in adjoining apartments and polluting my air?
Home Air Check can detect some of the solvents used in illegal drug production but many of these are common solvents that could be coming from other sources. However, it cannot detect the drug itself because most drugs are not volatile. The chemicals that off-gas into the air are mostly volatile and the test could pick those up if they were entering an adjoining space.
Home Air Check does not provide a definitive positive or negative determination to prove the presence of illegal drugs. Please contact your local authorities if you suspect illegal activity.
Can Home Air Check be used to test laminate flooring?
No. The emissions test as described in the 60 Minutes report is performed under specific conditions of temperature, humidity, and airflow and only includes the bulk material. So once you get the material in a “real” environment you are likely to get different emissions than the chamber test reported.
Can Home Air Check detect the presence of nicotine or tobacco smoke?
Home Air Check does not specifically detect for nicotine or tobacco. However, Prism has developed another test called Tobacco Smoke Check that does detect for the presence of certain chemical markers known to be present in tobacco smoke. The Tobacco Smoke Check test can be ordered from this site, either as a stand-alone test, or in conjunction with a Home Air Check test.
Using Home Air Check
What steps should be taken before testing my home’s indoor air quality?
The objective of taking an air sample in the first place is to determine the quality of the indoor air. This may sound obvious, however, if changes are made in lifestyle or the building contents or if temporary steps are taken to improve indoor air quality, or IAQ, the sample will not be truly reflective of IAQ. Generally, temporary changes in lifestyle or in the building diminish the value of the results because the homeowners will change back as soon as the sampling is over and the impact of the changes will remain unknown. The only suggested change is to keep all interior doors open during sampling to facilitate air movement and to help uncover “hidden” sources.
The following is a list of things to consider to ensure that a sample is taken that truly reflects IAQ:
- Eliminate potential interfering sources that produce high levels of volatile chemicals that may cloud or skew the results or hide actual problems
- No frying for 48 hours
- No cooking or baking for 24 hours
- No unusual activities such as painting or gluing
- Do not change lifestyle
- Run the HVAC system normally
- Keep exterior doors/windows closed unless normal lifestyle includes leaving them open
- Do not turn on vent fans unless they are always left on
- Do not alter the building or its contents
- Do not remove items from the home unless the items will not be returned to the home
- Do not remove cars or machinery from an attached garage
- Do not leave overhead garage doors open
My home has an attached garage. Should I refrain from parking in the garage before the testing?
- Do not alter the garage or its contents.
- Do not remove cars or machinery from an attached garage
- Do not leave overhead garage doors open
How do I collect an air sample in my home?
After you place an order for the Home Air Check test, Prism will ship a sampling kit to your home so you can collect an air sample. The kit will contain a sample tube that will capture the chemicals present in your home air, a small sample pump to pull the home air through the sample tube, some simple instructions, and a pre-addressed, pre-paid box to return the kit to our lab for analysis. Sampling time is 2 hours. That’s it! The test is extremely simple and easy to perform – anyone can do it!
Do I have to worry about chemical exposure while collecting the sample?
The sampling tube is a solid material that emits no chemicals while being utilized. In fact, the entire methodology from sample collection to analysis has been developed as a “Green” Method.
How big of an area does Home Air Check cover?
Each Home Air Check™ test can sample up to a 2,000 sq. ft. area. Therefore, if the area you wish to test is 2,000 sq. ft. or under, we recommend ordering a single Home Air Check™ test kit. For testing areas greater than 2,000 sq. ft., or for testing a completely separate/closed-off area of the home such as a basement, we recommend ordering multiple Home Air Check tests. Special package pricing is available for multiple test kit orders.
I have ordered multiple kits, can I collect more than one sample at a time?
You will receive one sample tube for each analysis ordered. You will receive one sample pump for up to 6 tests ordered. If you have ordered less than 6 tests, you will need to collect the samples consecutively. If you order more than 6 tests, you will receive a second sampling pump and then will be able to collect multiple samples at the same time.
Can the test be used multiple times?
No, the Home Air Check test is a single-use air sample collected by you and returned to the lab for analysis. If you wish to retest after you have made changes in your home to improve the air quality, you would need to purchase another test.
Why does Home Air Check only measure indoor air?
Home Air Check is only measuring for the chemicals generated by active mold growth and not for mold spores. Therefore, the presence of mold spores does not influence the ability of Home Air Check to accurately identify active mold growth inside the home. The only instance where an outdoor Home Air Check sample is recommended is when the home is located in a forested area or other area where substantial, active mold growth outdoors, close to the home is expected.
What if I don’t want to perform the test myself? What are my options?
Although the Home Air Check test is extremely simple to perform, we understand that some people may not want to do the test themselves, and would rather have the assessment done by a professional. In this case, we recommend our IAQ Home Survey professional testing, a more detailed analysis of the home air, conducted by a home inspector, home service contractor, or industrial hygienist participating in our Professional network. Please note that an IAQ Home Survey professional test will cost more than our online price since it is performed by a service professional and it is a more detailed analysis. You will need to contact the local provider for all pricing.
What are VOCs?
VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are invisible gases that are emitted from solids and liquids found in the home, such as building materials, cooking sources, gasoline and fuel, air fresheners, paints/varnishes, dry-cleaning, laser printers, carpeting, adhesives, cleaning solutions, and many other sources. These chemicals can build up in houses, especially in the winter and summer months when homes are generally closed up. Repeated exposure to VOCs can cause blurred vision, headaches, nausea, dizziness, coughing, lethargy, burning eyes, respiratory irritation, skin rashes, reduced lung function, respiratory illness, concentration difficulties, depression, and, in extreme cases, loss of consciousness and suffocation. Higher exposure can lead to liver damage, kidney and central nervous system irregularities. Some VOCs can cause cancer.
What are MVOCs?
MVOCs, or Mold Volatile Organic Compounds, are gases (chemicals) produced by actively growing mold. Just as humans expire gases, so do molds. These chemicals can be monitored to determine the level of actively growing mold in the house. A Home Air Check™ measurement is an excellent way to determine the level of mold growing in a house — even behind walls. This is possible because Home Air Check is a chemical analysis of the air, and chemicals move more freely through a house than mold spores (particulates) which can be trapped by walls and thereby go undetected. MVOCs only determine actively growing mold, not the species of mold. When mold levels are elevated and there is chronic exposure in the home, some individuals can experience negative health effects, or worsening of existing illnesses, that could run the gamut from mild to serious. These health effects could include allergies, skin irritations, asthma, respiratory infection, and toxic poisoning. In addition, individuals with suppressed immune systems may be particularly vulnerable to illnesses caused by mold contamination.
Are there MVOCs in carpet?
If your report lists the MVOC levels as being elevated, there is a water intrusion somewhere. It could be underneath the carpeting, if it has gotten wet in the past and has never dried out completely. In order for mold to grow, there must be a water source. This can include chronic condensation as well as an active leak or water intrusion. The first step is to identify any water source and then remove it or stop the water from collecting. You may want to check underneath the carpeting to see if there is any source of water that may be producing the mold VOCs.
What if my home has elevated levels of VOCs or MVOCs?
Because Home Air Check uses state-of-the-art technology, an entire chemical fingerprint of the home is produced which allows us to predict the primary sources of air contamination. With the analysis reports, we provide a Contamination Index™ Report that lists these potential contamination sources, along with recommendations on how to remove or reduce them. If, however, the VOC or MVOC levels exceed acceptable standards, Prism can assist with the necessary next steps to improve the home’s air quality with a consultation, further testing, or referral to a knowledgeable industrial hygienist or other professional specializing in indoor air quality issues.
Do VOCs and MVOCs stay in my house?
Yes, these gases will stay in the house until they are removed.
How do I reduce my home VOC and MVOC exposure?
The best way to maintain a low level, and thus, safe level of volatile chemicals in the house is to remove sources of VOCs and MVOCs from the house, if they can be identified. VOCs and MVOCs can be reduced, but not eliminated, by circulating fresh air from an open window or ceiling/attic exhaust fans.
If a house is opened up through windows and exhaust fans, the VOCs should be at their lowest level, assuming you are not living in heavy industrial chemical areas with chemical plants or fuel refining plants. If you live in a heavily industrialized area, you should probably have your air quality checked since it could be significantly above recommended standards.
The level of MVOCs will be the lowest in a dry home. If windows are open and the house becomes damp, then higher levels of microbial activity will be present and higher levels of MVOCs can be produced. In this case, turning on dehumidifiers and/or air conditioners and keeping the house closed will produce lower MVOCs.
How long does it take for VOCs and MVOCs to leave my house?
If the VOC source cannot be removed from the home, replacing the home air with fresh air on a regular basis will keep the VOCs at their lowest levels and will reduce your exposure. Placing smaller sources, such as cleaning products, in tight containers when not in use can also help reduce VOCs in your air.
Why should I measure for these chemicals in my home?
The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and the European Union (EU) suggest that levels greater than 500 ng/L of VOCs could pose a health hazard in homes. High levels of VOCs can lead to respiratory irritation, mental confusion, headaches, lethargy, or worse, and can exacerbate existing medical conditions such as asthma. The levels of these compounds tend to be higher in homes built after 1970 because fresh air infiltration has been reduced to conserve heat with improved insulation, tighter door and window seals, and better construction technology in general. MVOCs detected above 30 ng/L indicate significant actively growing mold. Even this slightly elevated level could produce health concerns for some people.
What about Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) and is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). Since Formaldehyde is frequently found in homes, particularly in homes that are newly constructed or have been recently remodeled, we recommend that you include a Formaldehyde test with your Home Air Check kit order. Special pricing is offered when a Home Air Check test is combined with a Formaldehyde test. We also offer a single test for Formaldehyde only.
Is there Formaldehyde in carpet?
Formaldehyde is found in many products and processes, including some natural sources. Carpets typically do not contain significant amounts of formaldehyde anymore. However, carpets can trap formaldehyde within its fibers from other sources. And, there are other types of flooring that do contain formaldehyde. As with any chemical compound, locating and removing or containing sources is the first step to lowering the formaldehyde concentration. If sources cannot be located or it is not possible to remove the source, then increasing the amount of ventilation will dilute the amount of formaldehyde in the air and lower the concentration.
What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas. It is produced naturally by humans, plants (especially woods), and animals. Many manmade materials also contain formaldehyde, including engineered wood products (e.g., particle board, plywood, OSB, MDF, flooring, etc.), some preservatives, personal care and cleaning products, cosmetics, permanent press fabrics, glues, air fresheners, paints and coatings. Formaldehyde is also a byproduct of combustion, which includes some vehicle exhaust, fuel-burning appliances (gas stoves, kerosene space heaters, etc.), fireplaces, wildfires, structural fires, tobacco smoke, and trash fires.
What are the possible health effects of Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent), it can also cause nasal and eye irritation, increased risk of asthma and allergies, and neurological effects. At concentrations over 500 ppb it can cause eczema and changes in lung function. Animal studies have shown decreased body weight, gastrointestinal ulcers, and liver and kidney damage at high doses.
Is there a medical test for Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde cannot be reliably measured in blood, urine, or body tissues following exposure. Formaldehyde is produced in the body and would be present as a normal constituent in body tissues.
What are normal levels of Formaldehyde?
Since formaldehyde has several natural sources (atmospheric chemical processes; combustion; plants, primarily wood, and animals; decomposition of plant and animal material), outdoor levels typically range from a few ppb in rural areas up to ~20 ppb in more urban areas. Indoor air usually has more formaldehyde than outdoor air, typically ranging from ~20 ppb to several hundred ppb depending on the situation. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends Formaldehyde in indoor air be kept below 100 ng/L, or 80 ppb. Formaldehyde levels are usually higher in summer than winter because of the higher temperature and humidity in the summer months.
If my Formaldehyde test results indicate a high level, what kinds of things can I do to mitigate any issues?
There are a number of ways to reduce the level of formaldehyde in your home, including:
- Increase the amount of fresh air in the home by opening windows or using an HVAC system that brings in outdoor air. Most HVAC systems just recirculate the home air and do not replace it with outdoor air.
- Air conditioning and dehumidifiers have been shown to help by removing moisture from the air, which increases formaldehyde levels.
- Some air cleaners have VOC reduction systems that can remove some of the formaldehyde. However, do not expect them to remove all or even a large portion of the formaldehyde unless they have been specifically tested and demonstrated to do so.
- Cabinetry and prefabricated flooring are two large sources of formaldehyde. If these sources are removed, they can lower the formaldehyde level; however, they should be replaced with materials that are not constructed with formaldehyde-based glues or resins.
What are mold spores?
Basically, they are tiny seeds, microscopic and invisible to the naked eye, that spawn from molds and float through outdoor and indoor air. When they land in an appropriate environment, they will grow into new mold.
Can I have mold spores in my home and not have any mold growth?
Yes, mold spores travel through the air and by foot traffic and can make it into the home via the outdoor air and grounds. Although these spores are in the home and can end up on many surfaces, they do not grow and damage surfaces unless they have nutrients and a moisture source.
Are there natural sources of mold spores in my home?
Potentially, yes. Potted plants have mold spores and active mold growth in the soil. Potting soils generally have plenty of nutrients and water that can produce mold growth which in turn can produce mold spores. Mold spores are also produced by some food products such as blue cheese.
What about mold behind walls due to water leaks from plumbing or construction?
One of the main benefits of Home Air Check™ is that it can still see chemicals being emitted from growing mold even if the mold is behind a wall. Most mold tests require the mold to be almost obvious before they are able to detect it. Home Air Check can detect mold even when it is not visible.
Why are mold spore tests done both indoors and outdoors?
Mold spores are everywhere outdoors and are being swept by winds into locations where there may not be any mold growth. These spores can be brought into the home through the air and by foot traffic. If an outdoor mold spore test is not performed, the home may be incorrectly assessed as having a mold problem since indoor mold spores exceed outdoor mold spores when mold is present indoors.
Would mold growth in a crawl space be observed by a Home Air Check test performed inside the home?
If the crawl space is highly vented, the chemicals generated by the mold growth would be quickly swept out through the vents before they could get into the home and be detected using Home Air Check. Also, if a sealed, plastic membrane has been installed between where the mold growth is and the interior of the home, the mold would not be detected. However, if the crawl space is not vented nor has minimal venting, and there is no sealed, plastic membrane, the mold VOCs can usually be detected inside the home.
Does Home Air Check determine exact types and concentrations of molds?
No, our test does not speciate molds. The Home Air Check test looks for the chemicals that are released into the air from actively growing mold, called Mold Volatile Organic Compounds or MVOCs, and reports on the total concentration of MVOCs found in the home. If you need a test that specifically identifies mold species and their individual concentrations, we partner with a few excellent biological laboratories that do this type of analysis, and would be happy to recommend one to you.
Do you clean up household mold?
No, we are not a mold remediation company. Our Home Air Check test can detect the presence of actively growing mold. If it is determined that your home has a mold issue, you will need to consult a mold specialist to have it removed.
I plan to sell my house. Can I perform a Home Air Check test as part of a pre-inspection?
Yes, absolutely. It is a wise decision to have a complete pre-inspection and indoor air quality assessment performed prior to putting your home on the market to make sure no hidden issues will be revealed after a potential buyer has made an offer to buy your home. In this case, you would need to have an IAQ Home Survey professional test (a more detailed analysis of the home air) conducted by a home inspector who participates in our professional network. IAQ Home Survey provides you the ability to conduct a more detailed analysis of the compounds found in your home’s air. Plus, the home inspector takes care of performing the test and handling all the paperwork and shipping. Having a certified report from a home inspector that the air quality in your home meets recommended or acceptable levels gives credibility to the overall value of your home. Please note that IAQ Home Survey testing will cost more than our online price since it is performed by a service professional and it is a more detailed analysis. You will need to contact the local provider for all pricing. Find a professional near you (click here).
I recently moved into a rental property that has a lot of noticeable water damage. How can I know if there is any hidden mold?
Where there is a moisture source such as a plumbing leak, condensation, or water intrusion, there most likely is mold. If you can’t see the mold, it doesn’t mean there isn’t mold growing behind walls or underneath flooring. When mold is in an active growth phase, it releases chemicals into the air, called Mold Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs). With Home Air Check, these MVOCs can be easily detected, thus indicating that mold, while it cannot be seen yet, is growing somewhere in the home. The benefit of performing the Home Air Check test to detect hidden mold is that no mold is disturbed and thus spread during the test. The drilling of holes in drywall or the removal of wall coverings and flooring to try and test for mold spores is not necessary, and thus eliminates the possibility of making the mold infestation worse and the expense of damaging walls and flooring.
If Home Air Check detects hidden mold in your home, it will be imperative to call a mold remediation specialist to locate the source, repair it, and safely remove the mold.
What should I do if I recently installed laminate flooring?
The amount of formaldehyde emitted from flooring, or any material, depends a lot on the indoor environment. So once it’s installed the best thing to do is measure Formaldehyde in your home air since that’s what you are actually exposed to. An elevated Formaldehyde concentration does not necessarily mean there is a problem with your flooring, Formaldehyde has many possible sources that could be contributing and tighter, more energy efficient homes may experience higher concentrations due to a lack of air exchange.