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Smartphone App for Residential Testing of Formaldehyde (SmART-Form): a community science effort to measure formaldehyde in the home environment.

Project Basics

The main goal of this project is to design a low-cost, accessible system for measuring formaldehyde concentrations in residential environments. We'll accomplish this using emerging technology involving novel chemical reaction harnessing and color intensity algorithms created for a smartphone app. There are two main components involved in the detection system:

  • The BADGE has a reactive surface, to be unwrapped and placed in the home for 72 hours, during which time in changes color if there is formaldehyde present (this is developed and manufactured by Morphix Technologies).
  • The APP contains a function to quantify the color-change of the badge, and relate that intensity of color-change to an airborne formaldehyde concentration (this is led by Ohio State University); see https://github.com/publiclab/SmART-Form.

You can download the beta versions of the app for Andriod and iPhone.

Next up: Community testing

This formaldehyde detection system is ready to be tested by community members! The first place we'll engage folks to test this badge + app system is in Ware County, Georgia. This community case study will serve a dual purpose, of exploring whether or not this system is useful and has potential for broad uptake by communities with potential formaldehyde exposures, and of investigating formaldehyde concentrations within and among different neighborhoods in Ware County and possible factors contributing to those formaldehyde concentrations.

To see the latest progress on this project, please search the tag “smart-form”. To receive updates on this project, click the button labelled Follow smart-form on that page.


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Who is working on this?

The SmART-Form project is a collaboration among researchers at Ohio State University, the Building Energy and Environmental Systems Laboratory at Syracuse University, and Public Lab.

Project Background

This project is made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation. More information about the grant and scoping of this project can be found in this research note by Open Air Fellow Nick Shapiro. The first project report can be found in this research note. More information about the development of the app's user interface can be found here and addition app information can be found on Ohio State University’s SmART-Form page.

Indoor formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas that can have significant health impacts. Formaldehyde is a common component in adhesives and resins used frequently in building materials, and is found in many household products including cosmetics and detergents. Exposure to formaldehyde can result in respiratory irritation, headaches, and nausea, and chronic exposure can be carcinogenic. For a quick summary of formaldehyde exposure basics, please see the ASTDR’s ToxFAQs for Formaldehyde. For much more in-depth information, please see the ASTDR’s Toxicological Profile for Formaldehyde.

Regulating and remediating indoor formaldehyde

Residential indoor and outdoor ambient air formaldehyde are not regulated in the United States. With known severe health impacts, it is important that people be able to monitor and mitigate their own exposure to formaldehyde, especially as we cannot rely on a regulatory body to do so. In this project, we are developing a free smartphone application that will read a low-cost colorimetric formaldehyde sensor (developed by Morphix Technologies) to quantify the concentration of formaldehyde in the air. Our goal is to create an accessible way for individuals to assess their exposure to formaldehyde. Other ongoing projects seek to develop accessible formaldehyde remediation potential.