Friday, January 20, 2012

Toxic substances in the home: Formaldehyde

The indoor air in most homes features toxic substances.
Most people’s homes feature a variety of airborne chemicals and gases that are emitted by building materials, furniture, textiles, household products and more.

One chemical that can be found in pretty much every home is formaldehyde – a toxic substance that is linked to cancer.

But exposure to formaldehyde can also lead to immediate health effects. According to the EPA, formaldehyde exposure can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma.

There is evidence that some people can develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is released in tobacco smoke, word burning stoves and gas stoves, and the colorless, flammable and strong-smelling gas can escape from many commonly used household products, including the ones mentioned above.

Particleboard, plywood, fiberboard, glues, adhesives, permanent press fabrics, paper product coatings, insulation materials and personal care products often contain formaldehyde.

The EPA says that the highest exposure is often linked to pressed-wood products with formaldehyde-containing adhesives.

What to do to reduce exposure to formaldehyde
  • When buying new products, read the labels and opt for formaldehyde-free products
  • Use “exterior-grade” pressed wood products
  • Increase ventilation in the home. This can be done by opening windows or leaving the HVAC fan running.
  • Maintain a healthy level of humidity in the home.
  • Improve the indoor air quality with an air purifier. Powerful air purifiers with large activated carbon filters that contain a specially impregnated carbon for the adsorption of formaldehyde as well as other filters can help remove formaldehyde and other chemicals, odors and gases from the indoor air.

Sources: EPA; Sherwood Park News

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