I have asthma. What can I do about
formaldehyde in my manufactured or modular home?

Industry uses formaldehyde to manufacture building materials and household products. Other sources inside the home might be smoking or unvented appliances such as kerosene heaters or gas stoves.

The main sources of formaldehyde in a home are likely to be pressed wood, which uses glues that have formaldehyde in them. Some of these pressed wood products include:  particleboard, which is used as sub-flooring and shelving and in cabinetry and furniture; hardwood plywood paneling, used for wall covering, cabinets and furniture; and medium density fiberboard, used for drawer fronts, cabinets, and furniture tops. Medium density fiberboard is generally considered as being the highest formaldehyde-emitting pressed wood product.

Formaldehyde is also used to add permanent-press qualities to clothing and draperies, as a component of glues, and as a preservative in some paints and coating products.

Levels in average homes without formaldehyde insulation are usually well below 0.1 (ppm). In homes with moderate to large amounts of new pressed wood products, levels can be greater than 0.3 ppm. (Very few homes now install Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation - UFFI - due to the increase of formaldehyde that was found in tests back in the 70s).

Other pressed wood products, such as softwood plywood are produced for exterior construction use and contain phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resin in stead of urea-formaldehyde. Although formaldehyde is present in both types of resins, pressed woods that contain PF resin generally emit formaldehyde at considerably lower rates than those containing UF resin.

Since 1985, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has permitted only the use of plywood and particleboard that conform to specified formaldehyde emission limits in the construction of prefabricated and mobile homes. In the past, some of these homes had elevated levels of formaldehyde because of the large amount of high-emitting pressed wood products used in their construction and because of their relatively small interior space.

Over time, formaldehyde emissions will decrease. There are some things you can do in the meantime to minimize the effects. These include:  good ventilation, air conditioning and a dehumidifier. High heat and high humidity will contribute to the quicker release of formaldehyde. Using an air conditioner and a dehumidifier will be highly beneficial in keeping down emissions. Also, using exterior pressed wood products in place of the usual interior products may also help eliminate the concentration of the emissions.

Test kits are available as well as products that seal particle board.

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