Public Lab Research note

'Smartphone App for Residential Testing of Formaldehyde' Paper published (Open Access)

by nshapiro , gretchengehrke , haines241 | February 08, 2019 18:51 08 Feb 18:51 | #18317 | #18317

We're excited to announce that the exposure chamber validation and field test of our open-source and low-cost formaldehyde monitoring system has been published in Building & Environment. Here is a link to the open access article. With the abstract and highlights below.

Smartphone App for Residential Testing of Formaldehyde (SmART-Form)

SiyangZhang aNicholasShapiro bc GretchenGehrk b JessicaCastnerd ed ZhenleiLiu f BeverlyGuo fRomeshPrasad fJianshunZhang f Sarah R.Hainesgh iDavidKormos hPaigeFrey jRongjunQinh k Karen C.Dannemiller h i

a Department of Computer Science and Engineering, College of Engineering, Ohio State University, United States

b Public Laboratory for Open Technology & Science, United States

c Institute for Society and Genetics, University of California, Los Angeles, United States

d Castner Incorporated, United States

e School of Nursing, University at Buffalo, United States

f Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Syracuse University, United States

g Environmental Sciences Graduate Program, Ohio State University, United States

h Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, College of Engineering, Ohio State University, United States

i Department of Environmental Health Sciences, College of Public Health, Ohio State University, United States

j Strand Associates, Incorporated, United States

k Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Ohio State University, United States****


•A low-cost, easy-to-use screening tool measures chemical contaminants indoors by combining smartphone technology with a color-changing badge.

•The app was developed using a community-based approach.

•This enables simpler in-home contaminant measurement, with implications for environmental health professionals and citizen scientists.


Chemical contamination is ubiquitous in the indoor environment, but measurement options are often limited outside of research studies. This is especially true for formaldehyde, a known carcinogen and irritant. The goal of this project was to develop a novel screening tool: a smartphone-based app that can be paired with low-cost colorimetric badges for detection of indoor formaldehyde. The target users include citizen scientists, concerned citizens, public health nurses visiting homes, and researchers with relevant measurement needs. The user interface was designed using a collaborative development model. Badges were exposed to air for 72 h, and the user takes images that are analyzed in the phone. The app itself measures illumination (lightness) to determine color change, which was associated with formaldehyde concentration (R2 = 0.8811, P < 0.0001). The detectable range was 20--120 ppb and the standard deviation of readings was 10.9 ppb. Warnings were integrated into the app to address current limitations, including sensitivity to extreme lighting conditions and elevated (>80%) relative humidity. Co-exposure to acetaldehyde or a VOC mixture did not interfere with measurement (P = 0.93, P = 0.07, respectively). Overall, this screening tool can provide inexpensive, accessible information to users about their formaldehyde exposure, which can inform further testing and potential remediation activities.


Happy to see that the light conditions were a minor issue. I would love to get another sensor to re-test my bedroom to see what the reading is now.

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@nshapiro has marked @gretchengehrke as a co-author.

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@nshapiro has marked @haines241 as a co-author.

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A good step forward. Congratulations! Maybe @falbriard could use these ideas for some of his work.

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