What is formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical widely used by industry to make home building products. It is a colorless gas at room temperature, or available as a liquid called formalin.
How is formaldehyde used?
Formaldehyde is widely used to manufacture building materials and household products. Most formaldehyde produced is for the manufacture of resins, such as urea-formaldehyde, used to make the adhesives for pressed wood products, such as particleboard, furniture, paneling, cabinets, and other products. Formaldehyde is also commonly used as a preservative in medical laboratories, mortuaries, and consumer products, including some hair smoothing and straightening products. It is also a by-product of automobile combustion and is produced in small amounts by most living organisms, including humans.
How are people exposed to formaldehyde?
People are exposed to formaldehyde in the workplace and in their home environment, but the highest levels are found in work settings where formaldehyde is used or produced. Exposure to formaldehyde can occur in numerous industries and professions, such as manufacturers of formaldehyde and formaldehyde-based resins, woodworking, and furniture making. Morticians and laboratory workers may also be exposed to formaldehyde.
The general population is exposed to formaldehyde by breathing contaminated indoor or outdoor air and from tobacco smoke. Automobile and other combustion sources, such as woodstoves, incinerators, refineries, forest fires, and fumes released from new construction or home-finishing products, are some of the major sources of airborne formaldehyde. Other consumer goods, including some hair smoothing and straightening products used in salons, cleaning agents, glues, and adhesives, may contain formaldehyde. Formaldehyde levels can be higher in indoor air than in outdoor air.
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