Formaldehyde is a chemical commonly used in the manufacture of building materials and numerous household products. At room temperature, formaldehyde vaporizes into the air, potentially causing serious health problems. It is also a by-product of combustion processes. When you burn things like natural gas, wood, gasoline, or tobacco, formaldehyde gas is released into the air. The most significant sources of formaldehyde in homes are: pressed wood products like particle board, plywood paneling, and MDF (medium density fiberboard); foam insulation; carpets; drapery fabrics; resins; glues; cigarettes; and un-vented, fuel-burning appliances like gas stoves or kerosene heaters.
Health effects of formaldehyde are eye, nose and throat burning and irritation; nausea; skin rashes; and breathing difficulties in some people. High concentrations of formaldehyde can trigger asthma attacks. Formaldehyde is also considered a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance), classified as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) by the EPA. The World Health Organization recommends levels below 100 ng/L or 80 ppb.
Since formaldehyde is present in so many building materials and household products, every home should be tested for the presence of this toxic chemical.