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What are the potential sources of formaldehyde emissions in buildings and how do they affect indoor air quality?

"Formaldehyde is an important chemical used widely by industry to manufacture building materials and numerous household products. It is also a by-product of combustion and certain other natural processes. Thus, it may be present in substantial concentrations both indoors and outdoors.

Sources of formaldehyde in the home include building materials, smoking, household products, and the use of un-vented, fuel-burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters. Formaldehyde, by itself or in combination with other chemicals, serves a number of purposes in manufactured products. For example, it is used to add permanent-press qualities to clothing and draperies, as a component of glues and adhesives, and as a preservative in some paints and coating products.

In homes, the most significant sources of formaldehyde are likely to be pressed wood products made using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins.

Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. There is evidence that some people can develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans."

This information is taken from the An Introduction of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) - Formaldehyde Web site, which also provides information on reducing exposure and links to additional resources. You can visit this page at: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/formalde.html

You may also want to view the following resources:

Formaldehyde Hazard Summary:

National Cancer Institute: Fact Sheet: Formaldehyde and Cancer: Questions and Answers:

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's Public Health Statement for Formaldehyde:

Consumer Product Safety Commission: An Update On Formaldehyde: 2013 Revision:

EPA Region 7's Formaldehyde page discusses the issue of formaldehyde in school laboratories:

Title: Where can I get information about the health effects of chemicals?
URL: http://publicaccess.supportportal.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=23012&task=knowledge&questionID=24303

Indoor Air Quality State and Regional Contact information is available at:

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Topic Information
  • Topic #: 23002-21373
  • Date Created: 10/18/2005
  • Last Modified Since: 10/9/2014
  • Viewed: 2200

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