Formaldehyde is a major source of indoor air pollution. It is one of the large family of chemical compounds classified as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs off-gas at room temperature, posing health risks to building occupants. Formaldehyde is used in many building materials.
Common sources of formaldehyde off-gassing in buildings include glues and adhesives in composite wood products, preservatives in paints, varnishes, coatings and finish coatings in textiles with a crease-resistant, ‘permanent press’ quality. Formaldehyde is also used in the production of plastics, synthetic fibers, household products and industrial chemicals.
What Can I Do On My Project?
• Ensure that your project’s specifications call for low- and no-VOC products for all paints, varnishes and coatings used in the building’s interior.
• Ensure that your project’s specifications call for the use of only composite wood products which do not contain added urea-formaldehyde.
• Give preference to products with certifications which analyze VOC emissions.
Certifications include Green Seal, CRI Green Label Plus, Floor Score and Greenguard.
• Request Health Product Declarations (HPD) from product vendors and manufacturers.
An HPD identifies health hazards associated with product ingredients.
• Exposure through inhalation is common in buildings, especially those newly built or renovated.
• Workers in industries which produce and use formaldehyde are at risk from prolonged exposure.
Formaldehyde is a probable human carcinogen. It is also a known toxin, allergen and irritant. Even at low concentrations in the air, formaldehyde can:
• Irritate eyes and mucous membranes
• Cause headaches
• Cause burning sensation in the throat
• Trigger or aggravate asthmatic symptoms