Formaldehyde Allergies

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Formaldehyde is the chemical that has received much press in recent years and is referred to as being responsible for the term ‘mobile home syndrome’.  It is widely used in a multitude of consumer products such as household cleaners, laundry detergents, glues, adhesives, shampoos and soaps.  It is also a good preservative and makes an excellent adhesive and is widely used in the carpet and furnishings industries. It is even commonly used in the auto industry and is believed to be in certain foam and adhesive products.

Formaldehyde Sensitivities

Most people are sensitive to formaldehyde and many of those can have an allergic reaction when they are exposed to it.  Formaldehyde is like many chemicals, symptoms from exposure will get progressively worse the longer these people are in its presence.

Particle board is the most common product which is known to contain formaldehyde and is in the adhesive which holds the board together. Over time many of these products will break down and dry out, thusly releasing the formaldehyde. Many particleboard and carpeting manufacturers are marketed as ‘reduced formaldehyde’ products and may still have other aldehydes in the product which may still cause adverse reactions.

Dangers of Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is considered to be a suspected carcinogen and has also been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals and. Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing,  fatigue, skin rashes and severe allergic reactions.

Here are a few tips to help you minimize your exposure to formaldehyde:

  • Limit the use of particle wood products, such as pressboard and plywood.  Choose 100% wood products instead.
  • Insist on formaldehyde-free carpets, not reduced-formaldehyde since new carpets may outgas formaldehyde vapors for years to come.  Note: Carpet outgassing does not work, only time will allow the chemical to fully vaporize from the carpet according to humidity levels.
  • Don’t smoke indoors. Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) contains formaldehyde thousands of other chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic (cancer causing)
  • Wash all permanent press clothes before waering or storing. Remove plastic bags from all dry-cleaned clothes and air them out outdoors, when possible.
  • Ventilate; The solution to pollution is dilution!

About the author: John A. Daniels is a certified home inspector in Cleveland, OH.

ALS Linked to Formaldehyde Exposure

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