This page last reviewed September 6, 2016
Formaldehyde is a common indoor air pollutant found in virtually all homes and buildings. It is a colorless gas with a pungent odor, and at elevated levels is highly irritating to the eyes, nose, and lungs. Since 2004, formaldehyde has been recognized as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). In 2011, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in their Twelfth Report on Carcinogens, also classified formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen. Formaldehyde is released into the home from many indoor sources, including plywood, particleboard, and other pressed wood products used in home construction and furnishings, and many consumer products. Documents are available below that summarize the health effects of formaldehyde and discuss ways to reduce your exposure to it.
Regulations and Codes
- Flooring Made with Composite Wood Products (Fact Sheet) New March 4, 2015!
- ARB's Air Toxic Control Measure for Composite Wood Products (limits formaldehyde emissions)
- U.S. EPA's Formaldehyde Emissions Standards for Composite Wood Products
- The California Department of Public Health's (CDPH) Standard Method for VOC Emissions Testing and Evaluation (California Section 01350). This method provides the core emission limits for formaldehyde required to be met in the California Green Building Standards Code.
- California Green Building Standards Code. The Green Building Standards Code includes mandatory and voluntary measures for some building materials, including formaldehyde emissions limits.
Reducing Your Exposure in the Home
- Reducing Your Exposure to Formaldehyde (Fact Sheet)
- Formaldehyde in the Home (Guideline)
- Get the Facts - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) formaldehyde web page
- An Update on Formaldehyde - U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) booklet
- What You Should Know about Formaldehyde - Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fact sheet
Formaldehyde in Schools and Day Care Centers
- Air Pollution and Contaminants at Child-Care and Preschool Facilities in California (Fact Sheet)
- School Advisory (Fact Sheet)
- Remedies for Reducing Formaldehyde in Schools
Health Effects and Guidelines
- Formaldehyde Reference Exposure Levels (RELs) (PDF) - California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)
- IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Volume 88 (PDF) - International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) / World Health Organization (WHO)
- 13th Report on Carcinogens (PDF) - National Toxicology Program (NTP) / U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards - Formaldehyde - The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) / Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Indoor Emissions of Formaldehyde and Toluene Diisocyanate - Final Research Report
- Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality in New Homes - Final Research Report