Formaldehyde is a chemical with a pungent odor used to make other chemicals, building materials and household products. It is used in glues, wood products, preservatives, permanent press fabrics, paper-product coatings and certain insulation materials. Its most significant use in homes is as an adhesive resin in pressed-wood products. Building products made with formaldehyde resins can emit formaldehyde gas. There are two types of formaldehyde resins: urea formaldehyde (UF) and phenol formaldehyde (PF). Products made of urea formaldehyde release greater quantities of formaldehyde gas than products made of phenol formaldehyde. Incomplete combustion; cigarette smoking; and burning wood, kerosene and natural gas also release formaldehyde.

Symptoms of exposure to formaldehyde gas include watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and nose, throat irritation, nausea, coughing, chest tightness, wheezing and skin rashes.

Ask about the formaldehyde content in pressed-wood products before you purchase them. Purchase items that will emit the least amount of formaldehyde gas. Maintain moderate temperature and humidity, and ventilate areas with newly purchased pressed-wood products. Allow ample time for the materials to release the gas before increasing contact with the formaldehyde containing materials.

Other Indoor Air Quality Web Resources - Formaldehyde

Contact Information

  • Justin Otto - North Dakota Department of Health
  • Electronic mail address:
  • Office phone: 701.328.5188

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Page last revised: January 22, 2015