Many homes contain twice the recommended levels for formaldehyde.
While formaldehyde is a type of VOC found in the home, it is commonly assessed separately from other VOCs because of its widespread use in home building materials and many household products.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas that is present in a variety of different building materials and household products.
Formaldehyde is a human carcinogen that is commonly found in pressed wood products using adhesives containing urea-formaldehyde (UF), resins, hardwood plywood paneling, medium density fiberboard (MDF), and oriented strand board (OSB). More commonly, formaldehyde can off-gas out of new sofas and cabinets, drapes and curtains, rugs and flooring, as well as other types of furniture. Over time, these materials may release formaldehyde into the home.
Lower concentrations of formaldehyde in the air may cause irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat. Higher concentrations of formaldehyde may trigger asthma attacks, chest tightening, and wheezing. Sensitive individuals may experience skin or asthmatic reactions at low levels.
It is commonly considered a hazard in new/newer homes while it can also be found to persist in older homes from aging pressed-wood materials with UF resins.
Existing levels of formaldehyde can be reduced through fresh air (fresh air system in HVAC or simply opening the windows every few days if possible). Home owners are encouraged to use exhaust fans to help draw out contaminated air.
Home owners can prevent formaldehyde in the home by buying products with low or no formaldehyde content, including wood products that do not contain UF glues, pressed-wood products that meet ultra-low emitting formaldehyde (ULEF) or no added formaldehyde (NAF) requirements, and insulation that does not contain UF foam. Air filters generally don’t help lower levels of formaldehyde in your home. Overheating your home to “bake” out the formaldehyde also doesn’t work and may even raise formaldehyde levels.