How can formaldehyde affect our health?
Formaldehyde, also known as formalin, formal and methyl aldehyde, is a colourless liquid or gas with a pungent odour. It is generally known as a disinfectant, germicide, fungicide, defoamer and preservative. Formaldehyde is found in adhesives, cosmetics, deodorants, detergents, dyes, explosives, fertilizers, fiberboard, garden hardware, germicide, fungicide, foam insulation, synthetic lubricants, paints, plastic, rubber, textile, urethane resins and water softening chemicals.
Inhalation of vapors produce irritation to the eyes, nose and throat and frequently result in upper respiratory tract irritation, coughing and bronchitis. Asthma may also occur in some individuals. Severe exposure to fumes may lead to chemical pneumonia. Skin reactions after exposure to formaldehyde are very common because the chemical can be both irritating and allergy causing. In addition, formaldehyde is involved in DNA damage and inhibits it repair. Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogenic and has been shown to produce mutations and abnormal organisms in bacterial studies. Formaldehyde fumes are liberated from plywood, particleboard, chipboard as well as urea formaldehyde insulation. Symptoms associated with exposure to formaldehyde fumes can also include mucous membrane irritation, eye irritation, skin rashes, itching, nausea, stuffy nose, headache, dizziness and fatigue.
Toxicity is primarily related to the presence of the formaldehyde gas. Toxicity may be relativley inconspicuos and non specific in nature. Some people have been mis-diagnosed when presenting their symptoms. It may be very hard to trace the source of the exposure. People may also become sensitized to formaldehyde following repeated exposure to these fumes.
How much furniture is made with formaldehyde today? If you do have new furniture be sure to have the room well ventilated. Bicarb of Soda can be left around the room in open dishes to help absorb toxins. Change this every day. Charcoal has also been used for many years to assist with toxin removal.