If you’ve heard of formaldehyde, you probably know it is used in manufacturing and can be dangerous. But did you know it can also be found in many common household items?
If you’re concerned about formaldehyde exposure in your home, here’s what you should know.
What Is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde (CH20) is an odorless gas that is classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC). It occurs both naturally and synthetically, but most of the formaldehyde we encounter is man-made.
In its purest form, formaldehyde can be dangerous, but when it combines with other chemicals, like water and oxygen, it becomes less toxic and more stable.
Formaldehyde has many uses in industrial settings because it is a strong adhesive and preservative. It is found in many products, such as plywood, certain fabrics, cosmetics, and glues. It can also be released from new furniture or construction materials like particleboard or insulation made from fiberglass.
Unfortunately, this means that formaldehyde can often be found in our homes without us even realizing it.
Health Risks of Formaldehyde Exposure
Formaldehyde exposure has been linked to skin irritation, coughing fits, and respiratory problems due to inhalation of the chemical. Long-term exposure can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer.
People who are particularly at risk include those who work with formaldehyde regularly or those who already suffer from asthma or allergies.
Safe limits of formaldehyde exposure
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that people limit their exposure to no more than 0.1 parts per million (ppm) over an eight-hour period to avoid health risks associated with long-term exposure to low levels of the chemical. Levels higher than 0.3 ppm may cause eye irritation or other health issues depending on individual sensitivities.
How to reduce formaldehyde in your home
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of formaldehyde present in your home environment:
- Increase ventilation by opening windows when possible
- Avoid smoking indoors
- Use a dehumidifier if humidity levels are above 40%
- Choose natural fibers for clothing instead of synthetic fabrics
- Use low-VOC paint when redecorating
- Choose unscented cleaning supplies whenever possible
- Replace carpets and furniture cushions every 5 years
- Wash new clothes before wearing them
- Purchase wood products certified by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
- Clean regularly using microfiber cloths or mops instead of feather dusters which spread dust around the room instead of trapping it inside the cloth fibers
- Install exhaust fans or range hoods near cooking surfaces to reduce air pollution caused by cooking fumes
- Install air purifiers with HEPA filters throughout your home if necessary
Formaldehyde is a potentially hazardous chemical found in many everyday household items such as plywood, fabric softener, cosmetics and glues.
Long-term exposure has been linked to serious health risks, including skin irritation, respiratory problems and even certain cancers like leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer – especially for people who already suffer from allergies or asthma.
The good news is that you can take steps to reduce your family’s exposure to this harmful chemical, including increasing ventilation by opening windows when possible, reducing your use of products that contain formaldehyde and investing in HEPA filter air purifiers.
By following these simple guidelines and taking proactive steps towards reducing your family’s exposure to airborne pollutants such as formaldehyde, you’ll be ensuring a healthier indoor environment for everyone!
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