plywood.jpg

Formaldehyde

Fast Facts

  • Formaldehyde is a chemical carcinogen found in many consumer products, especially home renovation and decorating  products.

  • Formaldehyde is released into the air in your home.

  • Ventilation is very important to decrease formaldehyde levels in indoor air.

Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC), or strong- smelling chemical, that is used in many consumer products, as well as industrial products and processes.   Warmer indoor air temperatures increase formaldehyde’s volatility.  The U.S. National Toxicology Program says formaldehyde is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” and it is officially classified as a probable human carcinogen by health agencies around the world.

 

Common products containing formaldehyde include pressed wood kitchen cabinets and furniture, plywood paneling, wallpaper, paints, adhesives, varnishes, carpeting and permanent-press fabrics.  It is also found in smoke from wood stoves and fireplaces and some cosmetics.

 

The primary route of exposure to formaldehyde is through inhalation of fumes and sensitivity to formaldehyde seems to vary from person to person.  

Some people experience acute symptoms such as watery or burning eyes, burning in the nose and throat; coughing, wheezing,  nausea and irritated skin.  Chronic (long-term) exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to certain cancers and neurological diseases.  Research into other health effects is ongoing.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to regulate the use of formaldehyde in consumer products, but industry opposition has blocked legislation.

Things you can do:

  • Choose solid wood furniture whenever possible.  If you have to purchase particle board (pressed wood) products, make sure they have laminated surfaces, as they emit less formaldehyde than uncovered surfaces.

  • Allow new synthetic carpeting to air out (off gas) outside before installation.

  • Avoid purchasing formaldehyde-treated no-iron (wrinkle-free) clothing and decorating fabrics and wallpapers.

  • Choose VOC-free paints for indoor painting projects

  • Don't smoke or permit smoking of any kind (including e-cigarettes) in your home, as the smoke contains formaldehyde.

  • Avoid breathing in nail polish and sprayed hair products.

  • Increase ventilation during renovations, painting or staining projects, and ventilate your home on a regular basis.

  • House plants can be very effective at removing formaldehyde.  The most effective house plants are rubber tree, peace lily, spider plant, money plant, dumb cane, moth orchid, snake plant and philodendron.