Do not Protect Formaldehyde in Your Residence

Do not Protect Formaldehyde in Your Residence


If the phrase formaldehyde makes you consider mad scientists, you’re not totally fallacious. Formaldehyde is the smelly chemical that preserves lifeless specimens floating in jars in a science lab. It’s not one thing you need in your house — it doesn’t belong there. However it’s there. In reality, formaldehyde is in so many issues it’s exhausting to utterly keep away from bringing it into your own home. Be taught the place to seek out it, eliminate it, and what to purchase as a substitute.


Finest referred to as a preservative, formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable fuel at room temperature. (It’s combined with water in these laboratory jars.) It’s a unstable natural compound (VOC) with a powerful odor. Low ranges of publicity trigger irritation and sensitization of the pores and skin, eyes, nostril, and throat. It additionally acts as an bronchial asthma set off. Formaldehyde is a identified human carcinogen. Lengthy-term publicity is related to nasal cancers and leukemia. For these causes, formaldehyde is included within the Purple Record of “worst in school” supplies, chemical compounds, and parts the inexperienced constructing business tries to keep away from.

Formaldehyde at Residence

Regardless of the risks, formaldehyde constantly ranks among the many prime 50 manufacturing chemical compounds utilized by quantity. It may be present in insulation and manufactured constructing merchandise like composite counter tops, particleboard, and laminates. It’s additionally in family merchandise like mattresses and fabric, in addition to glues, paints, caulks, cleansing merchandise, and even nail polish. Melamine and bamboo composite kitchenware can include formaldehyde. Persons are additionally uncovered to formaldehyde from cigarettes, wooden smoke, and vehicle tailpipe emissions. Individually, most of those exposures include such low ranges of formaldehyde that they’re thought-about secure. Nonetheless, human publicity is cumulative, and the little issues do add up.


Whenever you discuss formaldehyde in homes, insulation is usually the very first thing folks take into consideration. Whenever you purchase or promote a house, most disclosure agreements require you to state whether or not there may be foam insulation in the home. Within the Seventies, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) was generally put in in houses. It was briefly banned in 1982 after its well being results grew to become obvious. The ban was overturned when research confirmed that off-gassing decreases over time. Though UFFI is nonetheless used right now, most fashionable spray foam insulation merchandise don’t include formaldehyde. Nonetheless, they’re nonetheless removed from inexperienced constructing supplies.

Sources fluctuate on whether or not off-gassing turns into insignificant over a interval of mere days or greater than two years. In any case, most UFFI is now greater than 20 years outdated and now not a major supply of formaldehyde within the house – though it will not be offering a lot worth as insulation both. The overall suggestion is to depart foam insulation in place till it turns into broken or you’re prepared to exchange it with a brand new, sustainable insulation. Removing must be completed by an expert. Though it’s unlikely to launch extra formaldehyde, it may be tough to take away massive portions of hardened foam insulation.

Pressed Wooden

Nowadays pressed, or composite, wooden merchandise are essentially the most important supply of formaldehyde in most houses. Resins used within the manufacture of hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium-density fiberboard include and might off-gas formaldehyde. The place you possibly can, select strong wooden over pressed-wood merchandise. When you possibly can’t, select merchandise which can be labeled compliant with the factors of the American Nationwide Requirements Institute (ANSI) or California Air Assets Board Air Toxics Management Measure (CARB ACTM). Keep away from “acid-cured” wooden floors and finishes. Most composite wooden merchandise aren’t reusable or recyclable (plywood might be an exception) and until you have got a really small quantity, should be disposed of as development and demolition (C&D) waste.


You’ll be able to scale back your publicity to the formaldehyde already in your house by sustaining good air flow, avoiding extraordinarily excessive temperatures, and maintaining indoor humidity ranges round 40% to 50%.  As a result of so many constructing merchandise include formaldehyde (and different Purple Record objects), a contractor who understands and helps inexperienced constructing practices might be your biggest ally on development and reworking initiatives.

Merchandise containing 1% or extra formaldehyde are required to be labeled. Examine ingredient lists for formaldehyde, or formalin, in addition to synonyms corresponding to methylene glycol, methanal, methanediol, or formaldehyde monohydrate. California has stricter legal guidelines for allowable quantities of formaldehyde in wooden merchandise; Washington, Minnesota, and New York limit allowable quantities of formaldehyde in youngsters’s merchandise.

Although labels corresponding to formaldehyde-free, no formaldehyde, low-VOC, and no-VOCs aren’t backed by regulation, there are some third-party certifications to search for: SCS Indoor Benefit™ + Formaldehyde Free (primarily for wooden merchandise) and Inexperienced Guard for general VOC ranges.

This text was initially printed on April 5, 2022.


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