It’s a chemical in almost everything you use. Formaldehyde has been a health concern since the 1980’s. Since then, the government regulates its use and encourages the public to limit their exposure.
But that can be difficult when you consider how much it’s used. Almost everything in your home contains formaldehyde. So, how can you cut back? It begins by identifying where it is in your home.
What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas which is both human-made and produced naturally. It occurs when methanol oxidizes. When it dissolves in water, it creates a formaldehyde solution.
You are exposed to it when gases are released in your environment or it absorbs through your skin as part of a solution. Formaldehyde has many uses — ranging from preservation to anti-bacterial.
Exposure to formaldehyde at different levels can cause a range of health concerns. In small amounts or short-term exposure, you may notice some of the following side effects:
- Coughing or Wheezing
- Watery Eyes
- Sore Throat
- Burning eyes or nostrils
In higher amounts or extended exposure, the EPA labels formaldehyde as a potential carcinogen. Research is ongoing to determine a persons risk of cancer.
Formaldehyde in Your Home
It is because of these health concerns that you should try to limit your exposure to formaldehyde as much as possible. Here are a few places formaldehyde is hiding in your home.
Companies use formaldehyde in the production of pressed wood, plywood paneling, and drywall.
2. Foam Insulation
Formaldehyde is no longer a key component to insulation but older homes from the 1970’s are at high risk.
3. Paint, Wall Paper, & Adhesives
The paint on your walls, the glue you use to put up wallpaper, and the wallpaper itself all contain traces of formaldehyde.
Do you know that ‘new carpet’ smell? That smell is a combination of formaldehyde and other chemicals. If you install new carpet, be sure to vacuum and clean it. More importantly, please look for “green” labeling of the carpet to signify lower VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions.
Your couch, recliner, coffee tables, and bed are made from the same pressed wood and paneling which uses formaldehyde in its process.
Your furnace, fireplace, space heater, stove, and water heaters all produce and release formaldehyde gasses into the air.
7. Clothing and Bedding
If you get wrinkle-resistant or treated clothing and bed sheets, you should know that treatment is formaldehyde. Always wash your clothes, bed sheets, and pillows before you use them or they will continue to release the gas.
8. Laundry Detergent
Watch out for Quaternium-15 — it’s the ingredient in laundry detergent which releases formaldehyde when you wash your clothing.
9. Paper Towels and Toilet Paper
Paper products are equally as guilty. Formaldehyde is a major part of the production of most paper materials.
10. Cleaning Supplies
Your cleaning supplies are full of harmful chemicals– formaldehyde included. Try to make your own or use supplies without terpenes.
11. Plastic Water Bottles
Plastic materials contain formaldehyde as well; use a reusable water bottle instead.
12. Personal Care Products
Hairspray, shampoos, face wash, lotions, and more personal care products all contain traces of the chemical. They can also increase your risk for acne. Always do your research before you use a product.
13. Air Fresheners
Those plug-in air fresheners and candles may be doing more harm than good. Watch for aerosol sprays and some candles for formaldehyde as an ingredient.
14. Cigarettes and E-Cigs
Formaldehyde and other dangerous chemicals are used to make vape juice and cigarettes. Do not smoke in your home to reduce lingering effects.
15. Vehicle Exhaust
If you keep your car in your garage, do not turn it on without proper ventilation. The exhaust enters your home’s HVAC system.
How to Avoid It
Check your labels. Before you make a purchase, see what your product is made from and if it has formaldehyde in them. Substitute these products with natural or organic materials.