Formaldehyde is a substance contained in the adhesives used to glue materials (usually wood) together. The end product are common home furniture we buy from the store without a care in the world.
This include the things we take for granted all over the place like the sofa set, coffee table, book cabinets, armchairs, etc.
Exposure the fumes of formaldehyde can cause a variety of health issues like:
- Throat irritation
- Cancer in severe cases
It’s a shame that back in the old days before we started to kill ourselves with man-made chemicals, furniture were made the traditional way.
They used solid pieces of wood cut out from trees and assembled with good-old trusty woodworking joints that can last for generations.
These days, with corporations ever so intent to manufacture cheaper and more affordable products in a shorter time, wooden products are seldom fabricated the conventional ways anymore.
This is why pressed wood came into the picture.
Sometimes also called medium density fiberboard or particle board, they are made by “pressing” tiny bits of wood together into shape. Then mixed with adhesives full of chemicals to create sheets of wood that look natural.
While these breakthroughs in technology has allowed every homeowner to have affordable posh looking furniture at home, it can have adverse effects on health due to formaldehyde contained in them.
Formaldehyde is a concern as they have the characteristic of off-gassing into the air, that is in turn consumed by us via breathing just like any air pollutant.
On top of that, this off-gassing process is not a just a matter of days.
A new piece of furniture made with pressed wood containing formaldehyde can continue to release it’s harmful air particles for several years.
It is important to note though, that the period when it off-gas at it’s highest concentration is when the product is new.
The workmanship of the furniture or the humidity levels at home can speed up the release of formaldehyde.
This means that if a new house is furnished with a lot of pressed wood furniture, you are going to get the most exposure if you move into it as soon as possible.
Managing the problem of formaldehyde
Some homes have been found with 3 times the levels of formaldehyde that is considered safe to human beings.
Other than to replace furniture containing formaldehyde with ones that don’t there is really nothing much you can do other than to wait it out.
However, you can still take precautions so that you don’t get too much exposure to it.
If returning or condemning the item is a non-question, then please enhance the air circulation in the house.
Keep windows and doors open as much as possible. You can install screens if there is a security or pest concern.
Then try to maintain the temperature and humidity at home to lower levels so as to prevent formaldehyde from off-gassing at a faster pace.
If you have just found out that the dining table you have used for 10 years contains adhesive filled with formaldehyde, don’t panic.
When furniture are aged, formaldehyde contained in them have probably exhausted themselves from off-gassing for years.
And the next time you buy wooden furniture, solid wood would be a healthier choice. Unfinished wood would be even better as surface finishes can contain harmful chemicals as well.
If only finished wood is available, at least get one that is nontoxic and free of formaldehyde.