Note from Carolyn:
Reading through the list of things that contain formaldehyde can be scary. Air fresheners are meant to make you feel the air is cleaner, but instead it is turning it into a deadly toxin, so do most of your household cleaners. I use essential oils for my air fresheners, either in a warmer, or in the water of my indoor fountain.
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Formaldehyde is present in relatively benign quantities in nature; however its presence in manufactured goods is a major health concern because according to a significant body of research, it is a known carcinogenic substance.J. McDonough-Horton - Natural News
Recently the U.S Department of Health and Human Services released a report on newly designated carcinogens that included formaldehyde. The report went on to suggest that people in certain industries were especially vulnerable to the effects of exposure such as those workers who worked in nail salons, in the funeral industry, and in industries which use formaldehyde to produce common household items including home furnishings, cleansers and personal care products. People who are exposed to concentrated levels of formaldehyde are more likely to develop certain cancers such as nasopharyngeal cancer and myeloid leukemia.
While some effort has been made to limit the quantities of formaldehyde used in manufacturing, such as restrictions recently placed by the US in The Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, this toxic chemical remains a significant health risk especially in confined spaces for prolonged periods of time.
Formaldehyde is classified as a volatile organic compound or VOA. This term is used to describe compounds that are under significant vapor pressure and are easily expelled into the air. Because formaldehyde is readily vaporized can be a serious indoor pollutant.
Products which may contain formaldehyde include:
* Wood composite furniture including; resins used for office furniture, couches, baby furniture, particle board, pressed board, plywood, and softwood.
* Building materials such as acoustical ceilings, mineral wool, decking, composite core doors, industrial glues, foam insulation, paints and paint thinners.
* Household cleansers such as floor polishes, scouring cleansers, disinfectants, liquid cleansers, laundry aids, air fresheners, carpet cleaners.
* Household items such as wall hangings, carpets or throw rugs, coating on paper products, textiles, plastics, and upholstery.
* Personal care products such as hair straightening products, hair rinses, and cosmetics such as nail polish and hair gel often contain formaldehyde. Baby products including shampoos, creams and bubble bath are frequently laced with formaldehyde. Toothpaste and body washes are also potential sources of this carcinogenic ingredient.
* Clothing that is designated wrinkle free or preshrunk frequently contains formaldehyde. It has also been found in baby clothes and bedding.
* Formaldehyde is also a key component in the familiar new car smell of recently purchased vehicles.
* Car exhaust and cigarette smoke also contain formaldehyde.
* Formaldehyde is used as a disinfectant in laboratory settings, and is also used in the embalming process.
There are ways to reduce exposure to formaldehyde including buying products that are formaldehyde free. Another important way to reduce exposure is to be certain to properly ventilate the house. Here are some other suggests to reduce formaldehyde exposure:
1. Frequently air out the house. Formaldehyde concentrations in the home may also lead to allergic reactions may contribute to asthma attacks and contribute to other respiratory problems, rashes, irritation to mucus membranes, and fatigue. Children may be especially vulnerable.
2. Formaldehyde may be more readily released into the air in hot and humid spaces. Keep the area cool and dry in summer weather if possible.
3. Pressed wood products or composite wood frequently contains resins made with formaldehyde. Avoid purchasing these products or look for products that are listed as containing no formaldehyde or low formaldehyde. One example of a product labeled for reduced formaldehyde content would be a C.A.R.B phase 1 or 2 compliant product which is The California Air Resource Board endorsement. California has long recognized the carcinogenic properties of formaldehyde.
4. Wash all new clothing before wearing it. Clothing manufacturers in the U.S and some other countries are not required to label materials containing formaldehyde though many of their products do.
5. Do not allow smoking in the home. Smoke from cigarettes is a leading cause of formaldehyde exposure and indoor pollution.
6. When refinishing or sanding an old piece of furniture or woodwork wear a mask and use adequate ventilation. Sawdust from these items may contain high levels of formaldehyde.
7. Combinations of cleansers can be deadly so don't mix them. Use proper ventilation when using ordinary household cleansers. Although many of them smell fresh and clean they are chemical cocktails that frequently contain formaldehyde.
8. Use low-VOC or no-VOC paints.
9. Buy only personal care and baby care items that are formaldehyde free. Be especially diligent with nail polishes, hair straightening products as both of these items may contain dangerous levels of formaldehyde.
The recent addition of formaldehyde to the list of known cancer causing agents may lead to tougher laws regulating its use in consumer products and is a significant step to protecting the welfare of the public from this toxic substance. Until laws change however, it will be up to consumers to take steps to protect their home and families from formaldehyde.