How to Reduce Exposure to Formaldehyde

Although formaldehyde is now listed as a known carcinogen by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, humans will be exposed to this substance in the environment, at home, and in the workplace.  It’s in soil, food, and water, not to mention one of the primary methods of exposure: indoor and outdoor air.  And besides being a carcinogen, health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; and severe allergic reactions, according to the EPA.

So here are a few things you can do to reduce exposure to formaldehyde:

(1) Ventilate – Increase ventilation, open windows and doors, or flush your home’s air, especially if a new source of formaldehyde is introduced in your home.

(2) Keep Cool – Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers to maintain moderate temperature and reduce humidity levels.  The release of formaldehyde accelerates with heat and may be connected to humidity.

(3) Choose Wisely – Use lower emitting pressed wood and other building products, cabinets, and furniture.  Search for products with ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde (ULEF) or no-added formaldehyde (NAF) resins.

(4) Ask Questions – Ask manufacturers about the composition and off-gassing of products when you are unsure about them.

(5) Pick Plants – Certain plants, like the money plant, remove formaldehyde and other VOCs from indoor air.  If you have enough of them and the right kind, plants will help.

If you’re looking for more detailed research or science, the EPA maintains a page on formaldehyde with more background, rules, and resources.

Photo credits: Columbia Forest Products, maker of PureBond, a “formaldehyde free” plywood with no added urea formaldehyde components or adhesives.


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