Formaldehyde is a formidable foe to the very young, persons with allergies, persons with breathing issues, vascular dysfunction, and to those who are interested in a less toxic, healthy lifestyle.

Formaldehyde is an organic compound with the formula     .  It is the simplest aldehyde and is known by several names such as methanal, formalin, methyl aldehyde, methylene oxide, morbicid acid, and oxymethylene.  A gas at room temperature, formaldehyde is colorless and has a characteristic pungent, irritating odor.

It is an important precursor to many other chemical compounds, especially for polymers. In 2005, annual world production of formaldehyde was estimated to be 23 million  tons (50 billion pounds). Commercial solutions of formaldehyde in water, commonly called formalin, were formerly used as disinfectants and for preservation of biological specimens.  It is widely used as an adhesive, and can be present in wood products such as particle board and plywood and in new sheet-rock.  It can also be present in clothing or materials containing scotch guard or permanent press qualities.

In view of its widespread use, toxicity and volatility, exposure to formaldehyde is a significant consideration for human health. On 10 June 2011, the US National Toxicology Program has described formaldehyde as “known to be a human carcinogen”.

Formaldehyde can act as a strong sensitizer.  It can create and exacerbate allergic reactions to many substances and persons can develop a strong sensitivity to its presence.  It is a respiratory and eye irritant.  This fact compounds its effect on those with asthma, respiratory issues, or eye diseases.  It is very detrimental to those with cardiovascular disease.

Formaldehyde can be especially irritating to infants and young children.  It can be irritating to eyes, nose, lungs and heart, but its effect on the young is compounded by their size and inability to systemically process this strong chemical irritant.  Therefore its presence in furniture and furnishings in the room of the young should be avoided.

For those with chemical sensitivities, avoidance is very important.  Exposure to it can lead to the spreading phenomenon of chemical sensitivities.  It also elicits an IgE and other immune system responses, so allergic responses are expanded as IgE levels increase.  Formaldehyde also can damage sensory nerves, thus triggering many neurological responses and possibly degenerative diseases.

Its use is expansive as it can be found in polyurethanes, paints, carpeting, and paper products in additions to the uses mentioned herein.  For those with allergies and sensitivities, for those concerned about a healthy lifestyle, and for those wishing to minimize cancer risks avoidance or minimizing contact with formaldehyde is extremely important.

Air purifiers with carbon impregnated formaldehyde filters can aid in removing any minute amounts of chemicals from indoor air.  The American Environmental Health Foundation can assist you with the purchase of the correct type of portable air purification system.

There are air quality tests to determine formaldehyde levels in a specific environment.  There are blood tests to detect its presence in the body.  The Environmental Health Center-Dallas can provide you with these assessments.

The Environmental Health Center-Dallas can provide the interested person with a skin test result to determine the presence and extent of a formaldehyde allergy and sensitivity.  Several other intradermal imprinted chemical antigen tests are available to determine the spreading of any sensitivity created by this exposure .This information together with air quality tests can be of extreme importance to the creation of a healthy indoor environment, one in which unacceptable health risks are eliminated.