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Formaldehyde is a colorless chemical compound released during the process of chemical combustion. It is also an ingredient widely used in the manufacturing business. There are many formaldehyde products, made for both indoor and outdoor use.
One of the most common uses of formaldehyde products is in building materials. Pressed wood products, such as particle board, medium density fiberboard, and hardwood plywood paneling may all contain formaldehyde. These products are used in flooring, furniture, wall coverings, cabinetry, drawers, and shelving units. Of all of these, medium density fiberboard is considered to have the highest formaldehyde content.
Pressed wood products, such as flake or oriented strand board and softwood plywood, contain phenol-formaldehyde resin. Carpeting can also contain formaldehyde within its adhesive backing. Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, though banned in some areas, has been used to insulate homes.
Other household products can contain formaldehyde as well. Durable press drapes, formaldehyde glue, and other textiles, such clothing and blankets, are sources of the compound. Paper towels, napkins, and facial tissue can all contain formaldehyde. Formalin, an aqueous solution used as a disinfectant, embalming fluid, and film stabilizing chemicals are all formaldehyde products.
There are also products that simply produce formaldehyde emissions. Cigarette smoke and appliances lacking ventilation systems, such as kerosene space heaters and gas stoves, release formaldehyde into the atmosphere. In combination with sulfuric acid, formaldehyde can also be used as a testing kit for the psychoactive drug Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as Ecstasy. Though it cannot identify the drug itself, it can verify whether or not other substances used in conjunction with the drug are present.
Since formaldehyde is a toxic and volatile substance, formaldehyde products can be a health concern. Even without touching formaldehyde directly, humans may still come into contact through the chemical compound during its evaporation into the air, or off gassing. Over time, formaldehyde, like many toxic substances, can leech into the air through off gassing, resulting in the substance being absorbed through respiration.
Some health problems that formaldehyde has been shown to cause in humans include allergies, watery eyes, fatigue, skin rash, throat irritation, headaches, nosebleeds, asthma, bronchitis, and nasopharyngeal cancer. In light of the health risks involved with formaldehyde products, laws and regulations have been passed to help protect people from harm. In many areas, such legislation has called for either a complete ban or reduction of the legal amount of formaldehyde allowed in products.