Dangers of Formaldehyde
A growing concern for many homeowners is the high levels of formaldehyde that is present in a many of the materials used during construction. Formaldehyde, which is naturally occurring, is also used in a number of industrial applications such as the manufacturing of home furnishings, household cleaners, paints, textiles, and yard care products. While formaldehyde and formalin are standard use for these products and materials, there has been a large number of supplies coming from China with excessively high levels.
Formaldehyde does occur in nature, and low levels of it typically aren’t enough to cause any concern. Formaldehyde can be found from burning wood, natural gas, kerosene, cigarette smoke, as well as exhaust from vehicles. As these are typically in lower levels and in the open air, they don’t cause much irritation or issues for humans. The problem is, formaldehyde falls under the VOC (volatile organic compound) category. These compounds can vaporize (become gas) at room temperature. So when there’s an excessive amount of formaldehyde present in a number of the materials used to build your home, it has the potential to release large amounts of it into the air which can lead to health problems.
Exposure to formaldehyde can cause a variety of different symptoms ranging from annoying to harmful. These symptoms can include: eye, nose, and throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, or other allergic reactions and are very similar to the feeling of having a cold or the flu. Higher concentrations, however, can be especially harmful as formaldehyde has been linked to cancer and is labeled as a carcinogen.
What Should I do?
If you’ve noticed some of these symptoms, there is a chance that there may be higher levels of formaldehyde in your home. Fortunately, this VOC will break down over time causing a natural decrease in the formaldehyde levels found in the air of your home. One of the quickest and easiest ways you can to lower the levels is to increase the amount of fresh air in your home by opening doors and windows. If you’re building a new home, be mindful of the materials that you are purchasing. Many hardwood floors contain higher levels of formaldehyde due to the varnish or finish that is used on the planks. One way to avoid this is to use a pressed wood flooring material which has significantly lower levels. If you’ve recently stained or varnished your floors, or the flooring you’ve used has high levels of formaldehyde, consider using a sealant over top of them. this not only helps to trap the harmful vapors in but will also serve to protect your flooring.
Just remember, formaldehyde is present in a number of things including the air outdoors. Typically the levels are low enough that it isn’t an issue for most people as we come into contact with it on a fairly regular basis. However, if you’ve recently applied a material, such as a varnish or paint, and have noticed an increase in irritation or other symptoms, the contact your physician as these may be signs of a sensitivity to formaldehyde or higher concentration of it may be present in your home.
August 2, 2016