Carcinogenic Compound: Formaldehyde


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now recognizes formaldehyde in manufactured products as a carcinogen.

Formaldehyde is composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, and is found in nature in amounts too small to affect human health. However, within the past 100 years, formaldehyde has been used as an antibacterial and preservative in thousands of everyday products. These concentrated and repeated exposures to formaldehyde increase the risk of cancer.

Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC), which means that formaldehyde is easily released into the air, making it readily available to breathe in small, contained rooms.

A few products that contain formaldehyde are:

>> household cleaners and laundry detergents

>> air fresheners

>> carpets, textiles, plastics, and upholstery

>> personal care and hygiene products such as hair-straightening products, nail polish, and hair gel

>> baby care products and infant bedding

>> car exhaust

>> indoor and outdoor paint

>> cigarette smoke

>> plastics and building materials

>> wrinkle-free or preshrunk clothing

There are a few things you can do to limit your exposure to formaldehyde. For one, air out your home. Formaldehyde is released into the air, therefore opening up a few windows and turning on a fan can greatly decrease your exposure. Washing new clothes before wearing is always a good idea; this not only eliminates other toxins that may be present on clothing, but washes away formaldehyde, too.

Using low- or no-VOC paints is an excellent way to reduce exposure, as well as purchasing personal care items that are free of formaldehyde. Most personal care products that contain formaldehyde do not list it in the ingredients list, therefore you should look out for formalin, methylaldehyde, and 1,3-DioxetaneQuaternium 15.

While you may not be able to eliminate all formaldehyde from your environment, you can decrease your family’s risk of exposure