Formaldehyde concentrations in household air of asthma patients determined using colorimetric detector tubes

K. C. Dannemiller, J. S. Murphy, S. L. Dixon, K. G. Pennell, E. M. Suuberg, D. E. Jacobs, M. Sandel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Formaldehyde is a colorless, pungent gas commonly found in homes and is a respiratory irritant, sensitizer, carcinogen, and asthma trigger. Typical household sources include plywood and particleboard, cleaners, cosmetics, pesticides, and others. Development of a fast and simple measurement technique could facilitate continued research on this important chemical. The goal of this research is to apply an inexpensive short-term measurement method to find correlations between formaldehyde sources and concentration, and formaldehyde concentration and asthma control. Formaldehyde was measured using 30-min grab samples in length-of-stain detector tubes in homes (n = 70) of asthmatics in the Boston, MA area. Clinical status and potential formaldehyde sources were determined. The geometric mean formaldehyde level was 35.1 ppb and ranged from 5 to 132 ppb. Based on one-way ANOVA, t-tests, and linear regression, predictors of log-transformed formaldehyde concentration included absolute humidity, season, and the presence of decorative laminates, fiberglass, or permanent press fabrics (P < 0.05), as well as temperature and household cleaner use (P < 0.10). The geometric mean formaldehyde concentration was 57% higher in homes of children with very poorly controlled asthma compared to homes of other asthmatic children (P = 0.078). This study provides a simple method for measuring household formaldehyde and suggests that exposure is related to poorly controlled asthma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-294
Number of pages10
JournalIndoor Air
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Absolute humidity
  • Asthma
  • Colorimetric detector tubes
  • Formaldehyde
  • Household chemical exposure
  • Housing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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