Formaldehyde in your Home

December 19, 2009 at 8:49 am 1 comment

It is amazing to me the number of items that can emit this “organic” gas into your living space. Being a life long serious asthmatic this chemical is a considerable threat to my health and well being. To quote from the EPA web site :

“Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. There is evidence that some people can develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans.  Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions. May cause cancer. May also cause other effects listed under “organic gases.”

This stuff is not only naturally occurring due to combustion of certain products but is also present in items as varied as the furniture (pressed board variety, think IKEA and other flat pack stuff) to your permanent press clothing! The main EPA site on the subject is here:

A few days ago the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released the first ever study covering concentration levels of this wonderful chemical in the home ( What they found is that in large number of homes, especially newer ones that the concentrations of formaldehyde are at levels that can cause illness.  A large part of the problem is that modern homes are often too tight, that is not receiving enough ventilation and exchanges of outside air and this allow dangerous levels of chemicals and other contaminants to build up.

This is especially concerning during the winter months where most folks really work on minimizing the intrusion of that outside cold air.  The release of formaldehyde  is accelerated by higher temperatures so it is also a good idea to not crank that heater up into the 80’s if you can stand to keep it lower.  You should also check with manufacturers of products you plan on purchasing to determine if they are produced using formaldehyde and consider other brands with different manufacturing processes. Or at least let the item sit out in the garage for a week to let the majority of the off-gassing occur outside of your living space.

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Entry filed under: Environment, News. Tags: , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Rich  |  December 19, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    One of the better articles I’ve seen on residential formaldehyde.

    I would like to point out that a week of off gassing in the garage really will not make any difference. A home built in 1963 that is still original signle pane windows (translate lots of leakage) produce 93 ppb of formaldehyde in room air from the original underlayment for the wall to wall carpeting. Unfortunately, formaldehyde is an unwanted guest that doesn’t go away in a couple days, weeks, months or even years.

    I would encourage everyone to test their home for formaldehyde. The Sierra Club used ACS passive badges for their FEMA trialer work. These cost $40 including lab analysis.

    If you are having any health effects test now. Otherwise wait for a summer heat wave. Formaldehyde off gassing doubles for every ten degree increase in temperature. I have found that a significant amount of formaldehyde is coming from the fiberglass insulation in the walls. The hot summer sun really increases the amount present.

    Other less know commons sources are fuzzy hangers, press board in children toys, yoga mats, and many upper end name brand furniture products.


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