Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Various organizations have established guidelines or recommendations for maximum formaldehyde concentrations, based upon examinations of scientific literature. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, World Health Organization, Health Canada and the EPA have all looked at the number of hours of exposure at specific concentrations and the common health effects individuals have experienced. Here is a link to an excellent guideline (chart) for formaldehyde in parts per billion (ppb).

Formaldehyde Chart:

Odor identification

Odor identification has been a big request in the past and we have listened! We tend to get quite a few clients calling us and telling us that they are experiencing a smell in their house or office that just wonít go away. Does this sound familiar?

Odors and air quality issues can originate from:

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), many VOCs can cause the following common symptoms reported by occupants in the building environment:

Some VOCs and SVOCs are odorous and some are suspected causes of adverse health effects. The suspected health effects cover a broad range including, but not limited to, sensory irritation symptoms (mentioned above), allergies and asthma, neurological and liver toxicity, and cancer. The following text briefly summarizes the current knowledge about the linkages of indoor VOCs with sensory irritation, allergic and asthmatic effects and cancer.

Chemicals and Odors

Chemicals and related odors can be sources of IEQ problems in buildings. Odors are organic or inorganic compounds and can be both pleasant and unpleasant. Some odors can be health hazards and some are not. While most chemical contaminants originate from within the building, chemicals can be drawn into a building from the outdoors, as well.

Reducing exposure to chemicals in the workplace is a preventative action that can lead to both an improved outcome in the health of workers and to the environment.

Chemical Contaminant Sources

There are a variety of chemical contaminants found in a variety of sources. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are common chemical contaminants found in office and home environments and are a major source of odors. VOCs are organic (containing carbon) chemicals that can easily evaporate into the air. Many products found in the office environment may have the potential to release VOCs. Examples include:

If these and other chemical contaminant sources are not controlled, indoor environmental air quality problems can arise, even if the building's ventilation system is properly designed and well maintained. Some examples of building related chemicals, odors, and their sources are listed below:

Contaminated outdoor air


For VOC testing, MiraMold typically uses the TO-15 Canister Sampling Equipment (as seen in the picture)

TO-15 Canister Case studies are as follows: TO-15 can be used for most IAQ applications. You can use it for odor identification, general investigations, and clearance.

  1. TO-15 can also be used in mold investigations by identifying MVOCs. MVOC concentrations were found to be higher in damp buildings with associated complaints than in non-complaint buildings. If mold spores were not detected in an air sample but odors or other signs point towards mold growth in a building then MVOC sampling may be warranted. MVOCs were found to pass through poly sheeting while spores can not. 3-methyl-1-butanol, 2-hexanone and 2-heptone have been used as fungal growth indicators.
  2. We have seen the mini-can sampling system used to find out the degree of hydrocarbon contamination in a building adjacent to a service station. The investigator found a gasoline-type odor in their workplace one morning and used TO-15 to help determine the source of the odor as well as the concentration. TO-15 was able to show that the contamination was indeed gasoline and possibly from the adjacent service station. TO-15 was also able to show that the air was also contaminated in upstairs office areas where the odor was not as obvious.
  3. The 6-L sampling system was used to find out what was causing an acrid odor on the side of a complainantís home that receives the early morning sun. Some paints contain biocides designed to suppress mold growth. These paints can off-gas mercaptans which have ëdirty sockí odor. TO-15 helped identify the odor compounds.
  4. The mini-can sampling system has been used to perform workplace exposure measurements for various compounds in a pesticide plant. The plant owners were concerned with ambient air concentrations of carbon tetrachloride among other commonly used solvents in that industry.
  5. A facility manager responsible for air quality in a region adjacent to a wastewater treatment plant used a specialized version of TO-15. The laboratory performed SIM (single ion monitoring) analysis using the 6-L sampling system for TO-15. With SIM, the laboratory was able to achieve detection limits 10-100 times lower than with conventional full-scan analysis.