Award Banner
Award Banner

Family moves into new home, falls sick from high levels of formaldehyde in furniture

Family moves into new home, falls sick from high levels of formaldehyde in furniture
Song's formaldehyde detector shows that the formaldehyde levels in his furniture were over the acceptable limit.
PHOTO: Lianhe Zaobao

The excitement of moving into a new home quickly died down for one family, as they fell sick one after another. 

Song Hongjun, 52, told Lianhe Zaobao that he purchased a 1,615 sq ft condo unit at Normanton Park in June 2023, and hired Far East Service Centre to handle the unit's renovations and furnishing. 

The Songs moved into the apartment on March 13 this year, after renovations were completed. 

Trouble began that very day, as Song's eight-year-old daughter developed dry eyes and a sore throat.

The 52-year-old businessman and his wife didn't think too much of their child's discomfort, until they also developed similar symptoms. 

After losing her voice for two weeks, Song's wife visited the doctor and was told that she might be suffering from formaldehyde poisoning.

Formaldehyde is a colourless, pungent chemical that is found in adhesives, composite wood and paint, which are used in furniture such as cabinets.

High levels of exposure to formaldehyde can irritate the skin, throat, lungs and eyes, while long-term exposure can potentially lead to cancer.

Following the doctor visit, Song alerted the interior design company, who sent a staff member to his home on April 2 to conduct formaldehyde and total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) tests. 

According to the Singapore's code of practice for indoor air quality for air-conditioned buildings, the level for formaldehyde should be below 0.08ppm. 

Out of 36 pieces of furniture that were tested, only five were found to under the threshold.

In Song's five-year-old son's room, the formaldehyde level in one of the drawers was found to be 4.8ppm — 60 times the acceptable limit. 

To remedy the situation, Far East Service Centre twice engaged the services of a formaldehyde removal company, but their treatment methods could not completely eradicate the problem. 

Song told Zaobao that he was also worried that the spray used during the treatment would cause more health problems for his family.

The renovation company then offered to pay for Song's family to move out of their unit, but the amount they offered was not enough for them to move into a high-end hotel. 

The temporary accommodation that they offered was also not up to Song's standards. 

Negotiations between the two parties eventually reached a stalemate, and Song said the company stopped replying to him on April 30. 

"We've been sleeping on the floor in the living room for nearly three months. I bought two air purifiers and opened all the windows to counter the effects of the formaldehyde," he said. 

Song and his wife had planned to ask his elderly father to live with them in their new home.

"I can't imagine how he would have reacted to the formaldehyde," she lamented. 

Homeowner to sue renovation company 

As the renovation company remained unresponsive, Song sent a lawyer's letter to them. 

The company then agreed to waive the balance payment of $7,800, and also pay Song $23,000 as compensation.

They would also visit his apartment to remove the formaldehyde. 

Song, however, refused to accept their offer. 

"The cost of the furniture alone is $33,000. I even had to hire someone to remove the old furniture. Their offer is very insincere," he said. 

Song eventually hired movers to dismantle and remove all the furniture from his home on June 10. He added that he would sue the renovation company. 

When contacted by Zaobao, a spokesperson from Far East Service Centre said they were aware of industry regulations, but denied breaking any rules. 

READ ALSO: Over $35k paid by 16 people: Sudden closure of bed furniture store in Ubi leaves customers in the lurch

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.