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C-FERST Issue Profile: Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a 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.

The chemical has a strong odor and is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature. It is found in resins used to manufacture composite wood (like plywood and particleboard), insulation, household products (like glues, permanent press fabrics and paints), some medicines, cosmetics, and dishwashing liquids and fabric softeners, and fertilizers and pesticides. It can also be found in emissions from un-vented, fuel-burning appliances (like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters), and cigarette smoke.

In 1987, EPA classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure. EPA is currently revising its assessment of formaldehyde. The new assessment will address both noncancer and cancer human health effects from inhalation of formaldehyde.

Short-term exposure to formaldehyde can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat, coughing, wheezing and nausea.

Learn more about formaldehyde by exploring the links below.