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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.


Health Impacts

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

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