Last year I was invited to investigate an indoor air quality complain from a proud owner of a new mobile home in the Welsh countryside. The owner has purchased this brand new mobile home from a respectable manufacturer. After moving into the mobile home the owner and his family members have noticed a particularly pungent smell. They thought that the smell was normal in new homes and they can get rid of it by ventilation.
As it showed ventilating the mobile home for long period of time did not improved the air quality inside. Family members including two young children have started to develop respiratory irritation problems and were increasingly becoming more and more sensitive to the chemical compounds in the air.
I have carried out investigation into the air quality in the building and also visited the manufacturer of the mobile homes who was very cooperative and helpful. I have taken several samples of the indoor air and identified that among others industrial volatiles two compounds were present at particularly high concentrations, Naphthalene and Tetrahydronaphthalene.
Both of these chemicals have a very pungent and characteristic odour. Although they were not present at concentration hazardous to health they could definitely be smelled and over time become irritating.
Further air sampling at the manufacturers premises help to pin point the source of the strong odours to items of newly supplied furniture from China.
The Chinese manufacturer has used naphthalene extensively either during manufacturing process or used it afterwards to provide protection against insects and moulds.
The only realistically available solution for the owners of the mobile home was to replace the furniture. The manufacturer is currently fighting a legal battle with the Chinese supplier.
By Tomas Gabor