1:5:10:365 EcoTip Blog

May 29, 2008

:150 Formaldehyde

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:150 EcoTip: Formaldehyde is a dangerous chemical that has been shown to cause reactions at very low levels. It has a strong pungent odor and is frequently associated with “new smell”. One example of continuing problems is the recent FEMA fiasco where formaldehyde laced trailer homes were supplied to hurricane Katrina victims.

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Additional Information:

The following quote about formaldehyde was written by my co-author Dr. Erica Elliott for our book Prescriptions for a Healthy House: A Practical Guide for Architects, Builders and Homeowners The 3rd edition was released earlier this month.

Indoor formaldehyde is gaining recognition as a severe health hazard for occupants of homes and office buildings where chronic exposure occurs. Several organizations, such as the American Lung Association, have recommended that formaldehyde levels not exceed 0.1 part per million. People who have already become sensitized to formaldehyde will have reactions at levels as low as 0.02 part per million. Approximately 50 percent of the population is exposed on a daily basis in the workplace to levels that exceed the 0.1 part per million limit. Mobile homes are notorious for causing health problems because of the extremely high levels of formaldehyde emitted from the plywood and particleboard used in their construction.

Individuals who develop permanent health problems associated with formaldehyde exposure often relate the onset of their symptoms to a flu-like illness, which is diagnosed as a viral infection. However, the affected individual usually does not totally recover from this so-called flu and is left with general malaise, fatigue, and depression. Other symptoms can include rashes, eye irritation, frequent sore throats, hoarse voice, repeated sinus infections, nasal congestion, chronic cough, chest pains, palpitations, muscle spasms, joint pains, numbness and tingling of the extremities, colitis and other digestive disorders, severe headaches, dizziness, loss of memory, inability to recall words and names, and disorientation. Formaldehyde is an immune system sensitizer, which means that chronic exposure can lead to multiple allergies and sensitivities to substances that are entirely unrelated to formaldehyde.

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