What Is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a chemical used in the manufacturing of many household items, such as, glues and adhesives, as well as being a preservative in paints and other coating products. Formaldehyde emissions continue to be released into the home's atmosphere long after being manufactured. It can also be released during the combustion processes.
Sources of Formaldehyde in the Home
These products and activities release formaldehyde into the home environment.
- -Permanent press fabrics
- -Acid cured floor and furniture finishes
- -Building materials
- -Unvented fuel burning appliances
- -Pressed wood products, including; particle board, used in subflooring shelving, cabinets, and furniture. Hardwood plywood paneling, used in decorative wall coverings, cabinets, and furniture. Medium density fiberboard, used for drawer fronts, cabinets, and furniture tps. This product has the highest formaldehyde emission rates.
- What are the Health Effects of Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is classified as a "possible human carcinogen" by the Environmental Protection Agency and NIOSH. Low levels of exposure can cause a burning sensation in the eyes, nose and throat. Higher doses can cause headaches, skin rashes, fatigue, nausea, and asthma attacks. Some individuals can be very sensitive to formaldehyde while others are not bothered by the same concentration. The Committee on Toxicology of the National Research Council estimates that as much as 10% of the population is "hypersensitive" to formaldehyde.
Reducing Formaldehyde Exposure
High level formaldehyde exposure can be reduced in several ways
- -Purchase pressed wood products that are specified as low formaldehyde emitting, or purchase solid wood products.
- -Use alternative products like lumber or metal.
- -Avoid using foamed insulation products containing formaldehyde.
- -Wash new clothes before wearing.
- Am I Exposed to Formaldehyde?
If you think you are experiencing health problems related to products containing formaldehyde, or if you have noticed a pungent odor that smells like pickles, you may want to test for the presence of formaldehyde. Do it yourself test kits are available, but they may not be accurate at lower levels found in homes. Your local health department or a private testing company may give a more accurate analysis and specific sources of contamination.
Reducing Existing Formaldehyde Levels
If the source of formaldehyde can be identified, the most effective way of reducing existing formaldehyde levels is to remove the source of the contamination. Formaldehyde vapors can be reduced by special wall coatings or sealers, sealing cracks, and putting gaskets in electrical outlets Air filters can be used to reduce airborne contaminates, but this option may be cost prohibitive. Increase ventilation in the house by opening windows, using exhaust fans, or using Heat Recovery Ventilation. If you are planning to remove particle board subflooring that is emitting formaldehyde, keep in mind that this can be costly and time consuming.