What you can do to reduce formaldehyde exposure
Although formaldehyde may seem ubiquitous in the environment, there are things that you can do to reduce your exposure to formaldehyde. Below is a list of seven simple things you can do to reduce your exposure to formaldehyde.
- 1. Buy solid wood furniture, or be sure pressed wood products are sealed.
To keep emissions low from pressed wood furniture or cabinets, purchase items with a plastic laminate or coating on all sides. Although solid wood furniture may be more expensive than furniture made using particle board, solid wood furniture contains no formaldehyde and will last longer than furniture made using glues.
- 2. Let new furniture breathe or off-gas.
Allow products that contain formaldehyde to “air out” before bringing them into your home. Airing out furniture in the sun will speed up this process
- 3. Purchase furniture that uses low-VOC paints.
Low-VOC and Zero-VOC paints are now readily available at most paint stores, and these paints have the same or higher quality standards of conventional paints. The EPA minimum requirements for low-VOC rating is 250 grams per liter (gm/l) of VOCs in “low-VOC” latex paints and no more than 380 gm/l for “low-VOC” oil-based paints.
- 4. Ventilate your home regularly and invest in a dehumidifier.
Formaldehyde concentrations are higher indoors than they are outdoors, so you can decrease indoor formaldehyde levels by letting in fresh air. Also, high relative humidity increases formaldehyde emissions, so you can use a dehumidifier to reduce relative humidity to recommended levels of 50% in summer and 30% in winter.
- 5. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking is not just a good idea for lowering formaldehyde in your home, it is good for your health. There are many toxic effects of exposure to cigarette smoke, including exposure to formaldehyde. Evidence continues to mount concerning the health effects associated with cigarette smoke. A fairly recent study released by the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that electronic cigarettes may lead to exposure to formaldehyde 15 times greater than conventional cigarettes. (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1413069)
- 6. Keep Chimneys and wood burning stoves clean
Make sure fireplaces and woodstoves are in good working condition to prevent smoke from getting into your living environment. Burn only well-seasoned firewood and keep your chimney clean and clear of obstructions.
- 7. Keep idling gas engines away from the home.
Gasoline engine exhaust, such as those from cars, weed eaters, leaf blowers, lawnmowers, contains a number of toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde. Do not leave vehicles other gas powered equipment idle in attached garages or near open doors or windows if near your home. Make sure doors are well sealed if your home is connected to a carport or garage to prevent exhaust fumes from entering the home. Keep windows closed when operating these gas powered machines as the fumes may drift indoors during warmer days when windows may be left open.
Following these simple steps will help keep the indoor levels of formaldehyde and other VOC's low.
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