Background & Inspiration
In 2004, the International Institute for Cancer Research (IARC) organized a working group consisting of 26 scientists from 10 countries to make the conclusion that formaldehyde is a human carcinogen.
In 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considered formaldehyde as a definite pathogen of human leukemia. Prof. Smith and Prof. Zhang Luoping, head of toxicological planning department (NTP), at the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that formaldehyde had hematopoietic toxicity.
In 2011, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that formaldehyde was the cause of human leukemia (myeloid leukemia).
In July 2016, 420 households were sampled by the China Quality Inspection Bureau. The exceeding standard rate of formaldehyde reached 70%. According to the statistics released by the Red Cross Society of China, there are already 4 million leukemia patients in China, more than 2 million of whom are children. And decoration pollution is the main culprit of the exceeding standard rate of formaldehyde.
We can't help feeling sad to see that children are suffering from illness and can only spend time in hospital in the age of lively sunshine. Formaldehyde is ubiquitous, whether in the classroom, car or personal toys, there is a great possibility of formaldehyde exceeding the standard.
According to big data, about 110 thousand people die of indoor pollution every year, the most lethal one source of pollution is formaldehyde. And in China, about 70% of the houses have detected formaldehyde exceeding the standard, especially after the renovation of residences and furniture..
Then we searched on some English websites, found that the formaldehyde incidents were unexpected. More than 200 records told us that formaldehyde issue has caused wide public concern. For this reason, we decided to explore the labeled concentration of formaldehyde and find out what harm it would do to us.
When the indoor concentration of formaldehyde is 0.1g/m3, there will be odor and discomfort; when it reaches 0.5mg/m3, it can stimulate eyes and cause tears; when it reaches 0.6mg/m3, it will cause sore throat or discomfort; when the concentration is higher, it may cause nausea and vomiting, cough, chest tightness, asthma or even pulmonary edema; when it reaches 30mg/m3, it will cause instant death. Such a low concentration of formaldehyde will cause so much harm to humans, except the time when formaldehyde is imperative. As biology and biology-related students, we immediately began to think about whether we could use the knowledge of synthetic biology to design a product which could remove formaldehyde. Our project initially attempted to produce a microbial formaldehyde spray reagent.
We looked up information about the products in the market, and found that every product has its imperfections.
In indoor environment, it is difficult for formaldehyde to run out of the window spontaneously. And as the temperature rises, formaldehyde will be released again, aggravating the pollution effect. Now many people are using activated carbon adsorption method. Activated carbon has good adsorption effect, but it is easy to saturate, and it will desorb again after being heated, which has not solved practical problems.
2. Potential hazards of chemical formaldehyde removal:
1) Drugs such as sprays are liable to cause secondary pollution and may damage furniture.
2) For the advocated one-time removal, based on the release of toxic gases at home is a slow process, so after a throughout removal, the concentration of formaldehyde will rise again in a few days. Moreover, the price is expensive by using this method.
3) The products are too miscellaneous and unclear. Although many formaldehyde-treated products are labelled with "high-tech" and "environmentally friendly", they have used some inferior chemical synthetic substances.