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What is Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a chemical used widely by industry to manufacture building materials and numerous household products. It can cause numerous health effects and is found in many of the products you use every day.

Formaldehyde Exposure

The primary form of exposure to formaldehyde is through breathing air containing it. Indoor air has more concentrated levels of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde can be released into the air through:

  • Industries that use of manufacture formaldehyde
  • Wood products
  • Automobile exhaust
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Cosmetics
  • Childrens’ bath products
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Air fresheners
  • Paints and varnishes
  • Permanent press fabrics
  • Carpets
  • Cleaning products

Many other products not listed can also contain formaldehyde. Certain cleaning product chemicals can mix together and produce formaldehyde. Visit our cleaning products hazard page to learn more about safe cleaning products to use at home and in hospitals. 

This report highlights the high levels of formaldehyde being released from baby furniture. Due to the number of new products typically found in new babies’ rooms, these rooms can have the highest levels of this chemical in the house. Download: Toxic Baby Furniture 

Even childrens’ bath and personal care products can contain formaldehyde. This article highlights the toxic chemicals in childrens’ bath and personal care products.

Health Effects of Formaldehyde Exposure

  • Nasal Irritation
  • Eye irritation
  • Neurological effects
  • Increased risk of asthma and allergies
  • Eczema
  • Changes in lung function
  • Cancer

How to Prevent Formaldehyde Exposure

Because indoor exposure is more common and more concentrated, a good way to lower levels of formaldehyde in your home is by opening windows, using fans, not smoking indoors,  and not using unvented heaters indoors. The CDC has a ToxFAQs sheet  that has in-depth information about formaldehyde. It is also important to be aware of the products you are using. You can look for products that have “formaldehyde free” on their label. Try to avoid cleaners with fragrance and preservatives. A list of ingredients to look out for on labels are: Formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal. Visit safe cosmetics Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-releasing Preservatives list to learn about everything you should look out for when shopping.

More information about formaldehyde