What Is Formaldehyde?

Understanding the toxic chemical that’s in everything - plus, 4 tips for getting it out of your house 

If you thought the last time you’d deal with formaldehyde would be in a 9th grade biology lab, think again. It’s everywhere. The chemical is found in hundreds of common household products and materials and it could be making you sick.

Formaldehyde is a strong-smelling, invisible chemical used as a binding agent in many areas of manufacturing including wood and fabric materials. It’s found in furniture, walls, paint, flooring, and more. The formaldehyde gas escapes from these materials and floats around the atmosphere.

Sensitivity to the gas can vary from person to person, so an exposure level that goes unnoticed by one person can make another sick or uncomfortable. Asthma sufferers may notice an increase in symptoms when near high levels of formaldehyde, and the gas may be more problematic for young children or the elderly. Formaldehyde exposure has been linked to cold and flu like symptoms including, sore throat, coughing, dizziness, nausea, irritated eyes and nose bleeds.

What can you do to protect yourself and your family? Airing out the space helps, making sure your heating and cooling systems are well filtered and ventilated. It’s also a good idea to let new furniture breathe outside of any packaging before placing it in your home. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends asking the furniture retailer to open up the packaging and let the piece air out in the warehouse a few days before delivery. 

To help further protect your home from formaldehyde, fight science with science.

New building materials now on the market can absorb formaldehyde gas. AirRenew Drywall uses a patent pending process that converts the formaldehyde gas lurking in your home into an inert compound that is removed from the air and forever trapped in the wallboard.

While exposure to formaldehyde may cause illness, it’s important to know that having small amounts of formaldehyde present in your home doesn’t mean you need to rush to the doctor. Most people exposed to trace amounts of formaldehyde have no health problems. And all new building materials, even those that use formaldehyde, must be approved by the Consumer Products Safety Commission which carefully monitors formaldehyde use. 

For more information on the health risks of formaldehyde gas, review the CDC’s Formaldehyde and Your Health or check out our blog for more tips and suggestions on improving the indoor air quality in your home.