Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is found in many household items and building materials. It is used as a preservative in medicines, cosmetics, toiletries and some food containers. It is found in resins used to bond laminated wood panels and wood chips in particle board. It is used as a carrier solvent in textile dyeing and paper products. It is also released as a by-product of combustion, especially from diesel engines.

In new buildings or buildings that have been recently refurbished, formaldehyde levels from furniture and furnishings may be high enough to cause signs of irritation. Good ventilation will keep formaldehyde fumes at a level where no symptoms occur.

Airborne formaldehyde acts as an irritant to the conjunctiva and upper and lower respiratory tract. Symptoms are temporary and, depending on the level and lengths of exposure, may range from burning or tingling sensations in eyes, nose, and throat to chest tightness and wheezing. Acute, severe reactions to formaldehyde vapour - which has a distinctive, pungent odour - may be associated with hypersensitivity. A substantial part of the population, including asthmatics, may have hyperreactive airways which can make them more susceptible to the effects of formaldehyde.

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