Formaldehyde's Impact on Indoor Air Quality
Formaldehyde is an important 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.
Formaldehyde can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat. High levels of exposure may cause some types of cancers.
Where formaldehyde is found
Formaldehyde is found in:
Resins used in the manufacture of composite wood products (i.e., hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard)
Building materials and insulation
Household products such as glues, permanent press fabrics, paints and coatings, lacquers and finishes, and paper products
Preservatives used in some medicines, cosmetics and other consumer products such as dishwashing liquids and fabric softeners
Fertilizers and pesticides
It is a byproduct of combustion and certain other natural processes, and so is also found in:
Emissions from un-vented, fuel burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters.
How you can be exposed to formaldehyde
The primary way you can be exposed to formaldehyde is by breathing air containing off-gassed formaldehyde. Everyone is exposed to small amounts of formaldehyde in the air that has off-gassed from products, including composite wood products.
Resources and Guidance Materials, with Translations, for the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Rule.
The Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, signed into law July 7, 2010, by
President Obama, added Title VI to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The law established
limits for formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products: hardwood plywood, mediumdensity
fiberboard, and particleboard. The national emissions standards in the law are designed to
reduce exposures to formaldehyde, avoid harmful health effects and mirror standards previously
established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for products sold, offered for sale,
supplied, used or manufactured for sale in California. Congress tasked the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) with developing regulations to implement this Act.
Specifically, this rule will:
Limit formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products that are sold, manufactured, or
imported in the United States.
Require labelling these wood products as TSCA Title VI compliant one year after the rule is
Set testing requirements to ensure that products comply with those standards.
Establish a third-party certification program to ensure that composite wood panel producers
comply with the new emissions limits.
Level the playing field for domestic manufacturers who have a high rate of compliance with the
Ensure that products outside of California will meet the new standard and thus, not emit
dangerous amounts of formaldehyde.
Include exemptions from some testing and recordkeeping requirements for products made with
ultra low-emitting and no-added formaldehyde resins.
What are composite wood products and what types are covered by this rule?
Composite wood products are created by binding strands, particles, fibers, veneers, or boards of
wood together with adhesives (i.e., glues) and include hardwood plywood, medium-density
fiberboard, and particleboard. Formaldehyde is found in the adhesives used in a wide range of
composite wood products.
Composite wood products are commonly used in the manufacture of furniture, kitchen cabinets,
flooring, picture frames and wooden children’s toys, among other products