Are you surprised that you have formaldehyde in your home? If you’re like most people, the last time you thought about formaldehyde was in high school biology when you had to dissect a frog preserved in the stuff.
So, what’s it doing in your home?
And, how can you cut household formaldehyde? Is it really toxic?
Get the details because it’s important to your good health.
Is Formaldehyde Really Toxic?
Formaldehyde is toxic. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reports that formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. And, it causes other problems.
When breathing formaldehyde at 0.1 to 0.5 ppm, you can suffer neurological effects, asthma and nose and eye irritation. At higher levels of 0.6 to 1.9 ppm, you can experience changes in lung function and eczema. Tests show formaldehyde levels range from 0.02 to 4 ppm. And, levels indoors are 20 to 200 times higher than outside urban air.
Keep reading to learn why it’s so much more prevalent inside your home.
Are Children More Adversely Affected by Formaldehyde?
It isn’t clear whether children are more likely to have problems with formaldehyde exposure.
Only a small number of studies have looked at the health effects of formaldehyde in children. The findings show that children breathing formaldehyde could have nose and eye irritation. And, there is some evidence of asthma or asthma-like symptoms.
Not very comforting, is it?
Want to learn more? The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) formaldehyde update.
Nine Ways to Reduce Household Formaldehyde
Check out nine proven ways to reduce household formaldehyde. The first five will teach you how to avoid bringing formaldehyde emitters into your home. The last four will help you clean up the formaldehyde that is being emitted. Both prevention and clean up are important.
1. Shop Smart for Furniture & Cabinets
That’s right. Your furniture can be a significant source of formaldehyde.
Any furniture or cabinets made with pressed wood like plywood, particle board or MDF may release formaldehyde. You’ve probably got more than a few pieces of pressed wood furniture in your home. Think sofas, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, bed frames, tables, night stands and dressers.
The CPSC says that after 6-10 months emissions decrease. They do not say how long these products continue to emit at lower levels.
If you’ve recently remodeled your kitchen or bath or bought new furniture, it’s hard not to picture a plume of formaldehyde hanging in your house.
But try not to.
Instead, read about how to find safer wood products like upholstered furniture. And, try to buy solid wood furniture when possible.
2. Choose Paints Wisely & Skip the Wallpaper
Paints and wallpaper also emit formaldehyde. And, emissions do not go away after the paint dries. According to the CPSC, formaldehyde can be detected 1-3 months after painting.
Luckily, this one is easy to solve by using Zero VOC paint and going without wallpaper. Learn more about Zero VOC indoor paints.
3. Find Wood Products that Meet Regulations
If you watched or heard about the 60 Minutes expose on laminated wood floors and Lumber Liquidators, then you know that certain brands of laminated wood floors release a lot of formaldehyde.
Instead of laminate, opt for solid wood floors. Or, when buying wood laminate flooring, follow the EPA recommendations and opt for floor product that meets CARB ATCM regulations.
When buying other wood products like particle board, MDF and plywood, look for products that meet these regulations:
- California Air Resources Board Air Toxics Control Measure (CARB ATCM)
- American National Standards Institute (ANSI):
- Particle board should conform to A208.1-2009 or CARB ATCM
- MDF should conform to A208.2-2009 or CARB ATCM
- Hardwood Plywood should conform to ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2009 or CARB ATCM
These regulations ensure that your wood products will release less formaldehyde in your home.
4. Stop Carpet & Drywall From Re-Emitting
While most carpets emit only a small amount of formaldehyde, carpet and drywall can become Re-Emitters.
What does re-emitting mean?
Because carpet and drywall are porous, they may trap formaldehyde emitted from other products and release it into the air.
So, even after your paint, wall coverings or pressed wood emissions have diminished, your carpet and drywall could be giving it right back to you.
One way to cut re-emissions is by installing VOC absorbing drywall. Instead of absorbing and releasing the formaldehyde, the drywall converts it into an inert substance.
What could be better?
5. Understand that Combustion Creates Formaldehyde
Any sort of combustion of materials like wood, kerosene, oil, natural gas, and gasoline produces formaldehyde. So cooking with gas, wood-burning and gas fireplaces emit formaldehyde.
Chances are you aren’t going to stop enjoying your fireplace. But, it’s a good idea to use your stove vent when cooking.
It’s a balance.
Pick one or two things to change at a time.
6. Let Fresh Air In
Open the windows to increase ventilation. Improving ventilation goes a long way toward reducing indoor formaldehyde. This is so important since indoor air is far more polluted than outdoor air.
7. Reduce Heat and Humidity
According to the EPA, heat accelerates the rate at which formaldehyde is released and may also depend somewhat on the humidity level. If you’re concerned about formaldehyde in your home, keep your home cool with low humidity.
8. Opt for Formaldehyde-Absorbing Plants
Fill your room with plants that absorb formaldehyde. It’s scientifically proven that plants can absorb VOCs like formaldehyde.
The Boston Fern is the best formaldehyde absorbing plant. Get the details on how to use plants to absorb formaldehyde.
9. Purify with an Air Cleaner
Purchase a high quality air cleaner that is specially designed to remove formaldehyde from your air.
You’ll need a unit with a true HEPA filter and Carbon filter specially treated to remove VOCs like formaldehyde. All air purifiers are not created equal, so be sure to check out Austin Air HealthMate Plus.
The HealthMate Plus continues to test as best in the market for removing VOCs. And, it has the lowest cost of five-year ownership.
Just curious. How many of the nine ways did you know? One or two?
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