Meet Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde Health Effects: Causes cancer, triggers asthma

aka “the Undertaker”


He may be colorless, flammable, and smelly, but formaldehyde has endeared himself to product manufacturers and undertakers because of his uncanny ability to preserve and embalm. In recent years, formaldehyde has gained notoriety for his unexpected appearance in children’s bath products and involvement in the Katrina Trailer scandal.

How to avoid

1. There’s no sure-fire way to completely avoid formaldehyde exposure until Congress passes legislation that will require chemical manufacturers to demonstrate that their products are safe before they end up in our kids' bath products, household cleaners, and bodies.

Until then...

2. Use exterior rather than interior-grade pressed wood products.

3. If you have products or construction in your home that could release formaldehyde vapors, make sure you have good ventilation.

4. Choose formaldehyde-free insulation and wood products, which are now readily available at major home supplies stores.

5. Make sure any wood furniture or fixtures that use particleboard are laminated or otherwise coated.

Frequent hangouts

Composite wood products (like particle board) used to make furniture (including cribs and changing tables), cabinets, countertops, insulation, and paneling; paper, kids’ bath products, dish-washing liquids, fabrics and fabric softeners, shoe-care agents, wallpaper, glues and adhesives, lacquers, paper, paints and coatings, and plastics, upholstery and drapes.

Why he's dangerous

Formaldehyde is known to cause upper airway cancer, leukemia, respiratory illness, and asthma. It’s also a hazardous air pollutant, which breaks down into carbon monoxide and contributes to smog formation.

Fun fact

Health researchers looking at the high rates of respiratory illness among Hurricane Katrina victims linked their illnesses to the unusually high levels of formaldehyde inside the trailers intended to protect these already vulnerable folks.

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