Irritating Air: Do You Have Formaldehyde in Your Home?
Are you having trouble breathing in your home? The problem might be formaldehyde. Believe it or not, this dangerous chemical is more common than you might think. Here’s how to keep yourself and your family safe.
What Is It?
Formaldehyde is a chemical with a strong pickle-like odor. It’s used in thousands of products ranging from adhesives, bonding agents, and solvents.
It’s also formed when other chemicals break down. It’s considered a VOC, which is a volatile organic compound. When these become a gas at room temperature, it’s referred to as “off-gassing.” If the concentration is high enough, it could cause health problems.
Where Is It Found?
Formaldehyde is found in many different products like particle board, plywood, paneling, and pressed wood products. It can also be found in some types of foam insulation. Some synthetic fabrics, like permanent press clothes, shampoos, and cosmetics, may also contain small amounts of the chemical.
It’s also a product of combustion, so if you’re using natural gas, wood, or gasoline or tobacco products, and there is any combustion (fire) that results, formaldehyde is released.
The chemical is a part of the natural environment, and our bodies have systems capable of detoxifying it, but in larger concentrations, it becomes problematic.
Formaldehyde affects people different. The most common symptoms, however, include coughing, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. People who experience reactions to formaldehyde often experience a burning eye sensation similar to the sensation experienced when cutting an onion or getting soap in the eyes.
The long-term effects of exposure aren’t well understood, however some studies do show that it may lead to cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists formaldehyde as a “probable human carcinogen.”
How to Deal With It
The easiest ways to deal with it are to avoid exposure. Don’t smoke, and if you do smoke, smoke outdoors. Open windows as much as possible to keep air circulating in the house. Run the air conditioner or dehumidifier. This will also control mold levels in addition to helping remove formaldehyde.
Spend more time outside, and pay special attention to symptoms. Bearing these precautionary steps, you can also hire companies like Greens Energy Services to have an air purification system installed. Purification systems are part of more advanced HVAC systems and they help clean the air in your home.
By doing this, and by circulating stagnant air, you reduce your risk of being exposed to potentially toxic doses of the chemical.
It’s especially important to run air-cleaning and purification systems when you have indoor fireplaces or you smoke inside.
Isn’t It Banned?
Unbelievable, no, it’s not. It’s used as an essential chemical in many consumer products. In 1985, Minnesota regulated the sale of wood products made with urea formaldehyde, but many new furniture products sold in the U.S. aren’t covered by these regulations and most other states don’t have strict laws controlling the chemical.
If you’re seriously concerned about it, you may wish to reevaluate the types of consumer products you buy.
Marcella R. Thompson is a home health aide. She likes to share her insights by posting on the web. Her posts can be found on many health and homeowner blog sites.