Formaldehyde – In the news and what you should know now

May 29, 2008 at 7:50 pm 1 comment

Formaldehyde has been in the news a lot lately especially in regards to the travel trailers used to house refugees from hurricane Katrina. In fact a great story was aired by NPR tonight and can be found here:

The basic facts are that this chemical is in quite a few products that go into buildings and the off gassing issues with newly constructed or remodeled spaces are quite real. Many people who are sensitive to other allergens and chemicals are sensitive to formaldehyde.

Here are some links that will probably scare you, however realize that these are written regarding the employees and situations where this chemical is actually used to manufacture products using formaldehyde.

From OSHA:

From the National Cancer Institute:

From the US EPA:

The good news is that over this last 10 years the technology has improved so that less of this chemical is released into the surrounding environment and in California new regulations go into effect on January 1, 2009 that will further limit what is allowed as a step toward eliminating it as much as possible. The information on these rules can be found here:

The main problems that still exist is that this chemical off-gasses while relatively new and under certain conditions. The new phase still has only one solution, extra ventilation during that period which in my recent experience is from a few days to a couple of weeks. The other situation, which is covered very well in the NPR article listed above is during times of high heat and humidity, like those conditions found in the gulf area. Under these conditions the plywood and particle board would have increased and sustained off-gassing levels. This is the cause of the problem with the FEMA trailers.

The main technique to lessen the transmission levels from the materials we in the building industry normally handle is a simple one, paint. Yes by painting the plywood, strand board and MDF, including the edges we can cut the transmission rate by almost 90% in most cases. Other suggestions on reducing risk in the environment can be found here. They include some interesting ones for instance permanent press clothing should be washed before being worn as these items represent a potentially large source of formaldehyde in a local area when first used.

As always I appreciate you interest and please let me know what you think in the comment area below. Any questions or suggestions for future posts should be directed to

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Entry filed under: Compliance, Design, Environment, Maintenance, Technology. Tags: , , , , .

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