Those of us old enough to remember Marcia Brady writing a letter to Davy Jones which ultimately leads to her going to prom with him are also likely to remember when wood paneling was fashionable home decor. There’s more than one reason this trend has fallen by the wayside. In addition to being outdated, wood paneling also contains formaldehyde which can pose a threat to the air quality in your home. Just because the 1970’s are over doesn’t mean that the threat of formaldehyde in your home is a non issue. Here’s what you need to know to minimize the risk to your family.
What is Formaldehyde? Formaldehyde is used in countless products for the purpose of acting as a bonding agent. It can also be created as other chemicals break down. It is considered a volatile organic compound (VOC). These types of compounds become a gas at room temperature and can release unhealthy chemicals into the air which are then inhaled by those around it. The more formaldehyde that is emitted into the air, the more of a health risk it poses.
What Type of Products is Formaldehyde Found In?
- Particle board
- Builder grade furniture and cabinets
- Permanent press bedding
What are the Side Effects of Formaldehyde Exposure?
The side effects of formaldehyde exposure vary widely by the amount and duration of exposure. Severity of symptoms also varies person to person. Symptoms include watery eyes, runny nose and burning sensations in the throat, eyes and nose. Because these symptoms imitate those of the common cold and allergies, it can be difficult to identify them as symptoms of formaldehyde exposure. Higher concentrations of exposure can lead to nausea, headaches, coughing & wheezing, rashes and chest tightness. While there are no scientific studies proving formaldehyde causes cancer in humans, it has been demonstrated that high levels of formaldehyde exposure causes cancer in lab rats.
How Can I Reduce my Formaldehyde Exposure at Home?
While it would be nearly impossible to create a home environment free of formaldehyde, there are steps that can be taken to minimize the exposure.
- Opt for real wood in cabinets and flooring, as opposed to builder grade materials.
- Regularly maintain your chimney & wood stove so that smoke is directed outdoors as much as possible.
- Opt for low or non VOC paints when possible
- Forego wallpaper
- Opt for cotton, instead of permanent press sheets which contain formaldehyde