Erin Doman on August 10, 2016 8 Comments Formaldehyde, also known as methanal, is a colorless gas. When condensed, the gas gains different practical applications, and is often used in disinfectants and preservatives. However, it is important to note that this compound can be volatile and toxic. Certain studies suggest that it may even be a carcinogen. Surprisingly, this chemical compound can be found in various forms and in various places around your house. In order to truly understand the danger that this chemical can be to you and your family, you have to look at the health risks associated with formaldehyde and the common yet unexpected places it can show up at home. Health Risks of Formaldehyde The symptoms associated with formaldehyde exposure actually vary from person to person. Some people may notice eye, throat or nose irritations while others get headaches, dizziness, nausea or coughing. When you are exposed to formaldehyde for long periods of time, it may lead to nose or throat cancer and asthma attacks. It can also cause an immune system response when it is first introduced to your system. These risks range from worrying to severe, with the worst reactions associated with the inhalation of the compound and prolonged exposure. Where is it Hiding in Your Home? This product is used in the production processes of a lot of different products. It can be found in your home, in nature, in building materials and in medical laboratories. This organic chemical can commonly be found in: Construction and home care materials: Foam installation Particle board Plywood Pressed-wood products Paneling Carpet adhesives Floor coverings like laminates and rugs Paints Varnishes Disinfectants Fire retardants Water repellents Paper products: Paper grocery bags Facial tissues Paper towels Wallpaper Cardboard Toilet paper Toiletries and cosmetics: Cosmetics like nail polish Shampoos Deodorants Clothing: Fabric dyes Wrinkle-resistant sprays Synthetic fabrics Permanent press clothing Other: Tobacco smoke Natural gas Kerosene Vehicle exhaust It is important to note that many of these materials have the potential for releasing the organic compound into the air, but that does not mean that they are responsible for the majority of the contamination. Why is it So Prevalent? People obviously realize that formaldehyde exposure may have health risks associated with it, so why is it still used? The fact is that methanal has properties that are hard to replace with other products. That means that until an alternative is available, it has to be used in certain processes. How to Remove Formaldehyde From Your Home Because methanal can be found in so many products, it can be a challenge — and maybe an impossibility — to rid your home of the potential toxin. Here are a few steps that you can take in the hopes of reducing the amount of this particular organic compound in your home: Use an air purifier to clean your indoor air, especially in your bedroom. When burning wood or other combustible materials, try to do it outdoors where you can make sure that it is properly maintained and vented. Clean fireplaces and wood burning stoves prior to use to ensure that they vent properly to the outdoors and that there are no dangerous buildups. Do not smoke indoors, and limit your guest’s ability to smoke indoors. Avoid using UF foam insulation. Close the door to your house if you’re going to leave your car idling in an adjacent garage or carport, and make sure that that door has a good seal. You should also open the garage door if your car is going to be idling inside. Wash all clothing before you wear it, especially clothing made with permanent press materials. Buy solid wood furniture or well-sealed furniture. Give products made from composite wood a chance to off-gas. This means you have to unwrap them outside of your home and let them sit for a few days. You can also ask the company you buy products from to let the products sit unwrapped in the warehouse for a few days. Ensure that your house is ventilated well. This can lower the concentration of the potential toxin. Especially increase ventilation when painting or just after purchasing new furniture. Ensure that the temperature is controlled. This compound is water soluble and very reactive to temperature chance, so if you keep the temperature and humidity constant, the amount of methanal released is much less. You can also try sealing products that have this compound in them. This is not always successful, especially because some products used to seal may also be sources of the organic chemical. Double check the ingredients of whatever sealant you choose to use. The fact of the matter is that this compound is potentially dangerous, but very hard to avoid. Make sure that you do what you can to limit your exposure and keep your indoor air as pure as possible. Measuring Your Exposure to Formaldehyde To that end, you can actually measure how much methanal is in your home. To do this, you need to get a passive formaldehyde monitor. You keep the monitor in your home for a specified amount of time, and then you send it to a lab for analysis. There are also test kits that can be purchased. On average, 0.10 parts per million (ppm) is the maximum accepted level of this organic compound in your home. Once you know what your exposure level is, you will have a better idea of how aggressively you should remove possible toxic entities. For most households, the methanal level is quite low. Becoming Aware One of the best ways to reduce your exposure to this potentially dangerous chemical is to become more aware of products that may contain it. That means you have to start learning about production processes and added chemicals when you buy new clothes, furniture and other products. When you’re more aware of what contains formaldehyde, you’ll be better equipped to cut it out of your home. It is important to remember that many of the products in your home that have formaldehyde in them have very small doses of it. Some of the products will only release this compound into the air after temperature or humidity change. You can keep yourself and your family safe by following the tips listed above, and by educating yourself on the risks associated with different products.