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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Formaldehyde on the Boat?

This week we took out 2 of the extra sails that were shoved deep into one of the hulls on the boat. One sail is an extra Jib and the other a Spinnaker. It appears that the Jib had been damaged at some point in its life as the sacrifice had been ripped on the sail. No worries though, this is a perfect chance for Val to continue working on her skill as a sail maker anyway.

Val whipped out her teaching guide, Sailmaker's Apprentice, A guide for the self-reliant sailor, and began to look through what it would take to fix these Dacron sails. Her eyes furrowed. "Val", I asked, "what's wrong?" Her reply caused my head to tilt back.

The resin used in adhering Dacron sails has formaldehyde in them. The more resin, the more formaldehyde. We discussed the consequences of this and the risk associated with it. Clearly no one has died on the boat due to breathing it in, but the question has become, do we leave these sails on the boat? We do have sail lockers that are not located in the main cabin area, so the sails should make their way out to them. We can use the interior hull space where the sails were for something else.

The knowledge, the existence of formaldehyde on the boat, was a surprise. Would this amount have killed us? No. But we do need to understand what is on the boat at all times. This is our home. I wonder what else we will find .....


  1. If you are worried about formaldehyde that you are beathing, I would suggest using a passive acs badge for formaldehyde. $40 includes the lab analysis. Just slide the outer cover of the badge down exposing a series of holes. Hang the badge in the area of the boat that you spend the most time. 24-hours later slide the cover closed and mail to lab. A week later you get the results. The amount of formaldehyde double for every 10 degrees, so you might want to repeat the test a second time in hot weather.

    In the mean time, breath the fresh outside air as much as possilble.

    If you concern is absorbtion via touch, just use cloves when handling the sail.

    You will likely have many sources other than the sail. Moisture also increases the formaldehyde concentration.

  2. @Richard: Fantastic suggestion! Thank you. I wonder if there is some sort of general chemical absorption badge that we could leave on the boat for 24 hours to pick up whatever is in the air, send that in for analysis and see what turns up.


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