Abbotts Blog

The Dangers of Formaldehyde and What You Can Do

hazardous chemicals If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you may have seen or read about a recent story regarding the discovery of formaldehyde lurking inside of a Colorado home. Just months after moving into a new home, one family learned that the I-joists in their basement ceiling were coated with formaldehyde. Even more unsettling was the fact that the family’s children had been regularly exposed to the volatile compound while playing in the basement every day. The shocking nature of this story has many Colorado homeowners wondering if they, too, are at risk. Read on to learn more about the dangers of formaldehyde, how to know if it’s present in your home, and what to do about it.

Formaldehyde 101

Formaldehyde is a colorless but strong-smelling chemical compound that is most often used in the production of building materials and household products. At relatively low room temperatures, formaldehyde is able to vaporize into the air, creating the potential for serious health risks and complications. Over time, exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to numerous problems, including scratchy eyes, bloody noses, sore throats, and persistent coughing. For obvious reasons, then, formaldehyde can aggravate asthma and other upper respiratory illnesses. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde may even be linked to an increased risk of developing cancer. If you or anyone in your household are displaying these types of symptoms, you should not hesitate to seek medical attention and consider having your home tested for formaldehyde.

Determining If Your Home Has Unsafe Formaldehyde Levels

While there are trace amounts of formaldehyde present in nearly all homes, you’ll find that higher (unsafe) levels of the compound are often present in homes that were newly constructed or that feature new products. Formaldehyde is often used as an adhesive and preservative in building materials. In addition to this, formaldehyde levels tend to be higher in newly manufactured products – especially wood products like cabinets, plywood, particle board, furniture, and laminate floors. Certain fabrics and household products such as paint, glue, or caulk could also contain high levels of formaldehyde.

You should also be aware that tobacco smoke contains formaldehyde. If you or someone else in your household smokes tobacco, he or she could be generating unsafe levels of formaldehyde within your home. This is especially dangerous in newly constructed homes that may already feature wood and other products with high formaldehyde levels.

Because there are so many potential sources of formaldehyde within the home, it’s wise to have your home professionally tested for its presence. This will reveal whether or not unsafe formaldehyde levels exist within your home and if you’ll need to take further action to protect yourself and your family.

Mitigating the Risk of Formaldehyde Within Your Home

Although most formaldehyde is released from products within a span of two years, you can’t count on the toxin naturally dissipating from your home. Modern houses are built with much better insulation than those in the past and this makes it more difficult for formaldehyde to find its way out of your home. Wherever possible, it’s best to choose home construction materials and to purchase products from your home that are free of formaldehyde. If the compound already exists inside your house, you should attempt to ventilate the home as much as possible by opening windows and using exhaust fans. Air filters will typically be ineffective against formaldehyde. You should also avoid smoking inside of your house. Finally, professional formaldehyde abatement contractors should be hired to ensure that your home is completely safe.

Are you concerned about formaldehyde levels in your home? Contact the experts at Abbotts Fire & Flood today. We’ll work to ensure that you and your family are living in a safe and healthy environment.

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