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Formaldehyde Health Risks

Formaldehyde is a pungent, colorless gas that is soluble in most organic solvents and in water. It is used in the manufacture of plastics, photographic materials, paints, resins, and some types of foam insulation and building materials such as fiberboard.

Formaldehyde can be found in certain types of wood products, curtain and upholstery textiles that were treated with formaldehyde. It can also be emitted from kerosene and gas stoves and heaters.

The two most commonly used formaldehyde based resins are phenol-formaldehyde and urea-formaldehyde. Composite wood products such as hardwood and plywood paneling, particle board, and medium density fiberboard. It is also found in softwood plywood and oriented strand board.

  • Hardwood and plywood used for wall covering such as paneling and in furniture.
  • Particle board is used for shelves, sub flooring and in some furniture.
  • Fiberboard is used in cabinets, cabinet doors, table tops, furniture and shelves.
  • Oriented strand board is used on the the exterior of homes and as sub flooring.

Free or unbound formaldehyde can be released as a gas from composite wood products. It is released in greater amounts in newer products and usually decrease as a product ages, and eventually decrease to undetectable levels.

If composite wood products that incorporate phenol-formaldehyde resin are manufactured properly, the emissions are minimal. Urea-formaldehyde has higher emission than Phenol-formaldehyde.

In a study performed by The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, it was concluded that formaldehyde causes cancer. It is also irritating to the eyes, skin, and the respiratory tract along with headaches, nausea, burning of the throat and causes bouts of coughing.

To reduce the health risks of formaldehyde, remove or reduce the number of composite wood products or replace them with solid wood or non-wood materials. Increase ventilation and reduce the temperature and humidity levels in your home. The removal of sub flooring and paneling may be necessary if ventilation is not adequate.

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