California Air Resources Board (CARB)

Formaldehyde is a substance that has gained a lot of negative attention in the past few years, and with good reason. It recently was identified as a known carcinogen, meaning that it has been linked to an increased risk of cancer in humans. Minimizing exposure to formaldehyde is advisable, but it is important to understand its causes and its sources.

The chemical elements that make up formaldehyde include carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. All of these elements occur naturally in our environment. Natural sources of formaldehyde include things like forest fires. Manmade sources of formaldehyde include things like kerosene space heaters, automobile exhaust, and tobacco smoke.

Other sources of manmade formaldehyde can be found in most homes and businesses. The source of this type of formaldehyde comes from the building materials used, including fiberboard which is often used in cabinets, particle board which is often used as subfloor material, and hardwood plywood which is often used in furniture.

Wood flooring can also contain formaldehyde, as formaldehyde is a substance that occurs naturally in wood, and as formaldehyde is often used in the adhesives used to make engineered wood floors. To minimize your exposure, choose low formaldehyde emitting products for your home or business. These products will carry the following types of labels: ULEF (ultra-low emitting formaldehyde), NAF (no added formaldehyde), and CARB (California Air Resources Board) Phase 1 or 2.

Emissions from formaldehyde will decrease as a product ages, so indoor exposure will diminish over time. Common exposure symptoms can include watery eyes, sore throat, nausea, and in extreme cases, breathing difficulties. Extreme heat and humidity can increase formaldehyde emissions, so if these symptoms persist, increase ventilation and maintain building temperature and humidity levels within moderate conditions.

In July 2010, the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act was passed. This Act requires that the EPA establish new regulations and testing procedures for formaldehyde by January 1, 2013. The Act has not yet led to any legislation banning the use of products that use formaldehyde, but past studies have led to the banning of similar carcinogenic substances such as asbestos and lead.

More information about formaldehyde can be found here:


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