Facts About Formaldehyde

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What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature and has a strong odor. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause adverse health effects.


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.
  • Cigarette smoke.

Learn more from the Consumer Product Safety Commission about products that contain formaldehyde (PDF) (12 pp, 607 K, About PDF).

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. 

Learn how to protect yourself and your family from formaldehyde exposure.

What EPA is doing to protect against formaldehyde exposures

Health effects of formaldehyde

Formaldehyde can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. High levels of exposure may cause some types of cancers.

Learn more from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry about the health effects of formaldehyde exposure.

EPA formaldehyde research and risk information

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