Formaldehyde, though often misunderstood, is a ubiquitous toxin in our daily lives. This flammable, colorless gas with a pungent, unpleasant odor is found in many of the products and materials to which we are frequently exposed. From the structure of buildings to everyday objects, its presence extends in subtle ways, giving rise to growing concern about its potential health effects.

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Published on 25 March 2024

The dangers of formaldehyde

In this article:

Formaldehyde: an invisible gas

The nature and presence of formaldehyde

Formaldehyde, although often perceived as a chemical, is in fact a natural substance present in various materials, notably wood. The presence of formaldehyde is not limited to a few specific products; on the contrary, it’s omnipresent in our daily lives. Whether in furniture, floor coverings, clothing or consumer products such as toothpaste.

Sources and exposure

Formaldehyde emanates from Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emitted by building materials, furniture and other everyday products. The increase in recurrent exposure raises concerns about its health effects. This is particularly true for more vulnerable people, such as the elderly, or those with respiratory problems.

Formaldehyde’s many industrial uses

Manufacturing and contribution

In industry, Formaldehyde is generally marketed in aqueous form, known as formaldehyde, with concentrations ranging from 10 to 37%. Even in this diluted form, formaldehyde can emit formaldehyde gas, presenting a potential inhalation hazard.

Contribution to manufacturing

Formaldehyde is a key player in the manufacture of a wide range of products, from plastics and textiles to wood, building materials, fertilizers and even some medical products. Its versatility makes it an essential chemical compound in many industrial processes.

Impact on human health

Immediate and chronic effects

Chronic exposure to formaldehyde can have immediate effects, such as eye and skin irritation. Although most people experience no problems from minimal exposure, more serious effects, such as respiratory problems, can occur in people with significant exposure. Elderly people and those with respiratory problems are particularly vulnerable.

Carcinogenic risks

One of the most worrying aspects of formaldehyde is its carcinogenic potential, prompting growing concern about its impact on human health. This toxin, found in many everyday products such as furniture, flooring, paints and personal care products, could increase the risk of cancer in some people. This underlines the importance of limiting exposure to formaldehyde in our environment.

Preventing and reducing exposure to formaldehyde

Preventive measures

Faced with the potential risks of Formaldehyde, reducing exposure is essential to preserving health. Simple gestures, such as frequent airing of rooms, help to ensure constant renewal of indoor air and reduce formaldehyde levels.

The use of an air purifier is another effective means of filtering formaldehyde particles from the indoor environment.

Finally, installing a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) detector is an essential measure for monitoring the presence of formaldehyde in the air in real time. This device enables the concentration of particles in the air to be rapidly identified, thus minimizing potential health risks.

The Nexelec VOC detector

The presence of Formaldehyde (HCHO) in an enclosed space is difficult to detect unless you use a device called a Volatile Organic Compounds sensor. Nexelec has a wide range of sensors capable of measuring and analyzing this toxin for you. Intelligent and connected, the VOC sensor incorporates the latest technologies.

What’s more, our sensors can also detect many other pollutants, such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2), noise, brightness and presence. To help you better manage your heating strategies, the devices measure room temperature and humidity.