Formaldehyde resin may be one of three types: urea formaldehyde, phenol formaldehyde and melamine resin. Other plastics, adhesives and thousands of different products contain it. It also exists in the environment as air pollution.
The Risks of Formaldehyde Resin Use
All of the resins are allergens, toxins and carcinogens, according to the IARC and the US Department of Health. Because formaldehyde resin can be found in so many different consumer products, there is considerable concern about the amount of exposure the average person has on a daily basis.
Urea formaldehyde use for some purposes has been discontinued. For example, it was at one time commonly used as the casing for electrical appliances. But, as the items heated up, toxic vapor was released. Today, melamine formaldehyde resin or polyurethane is used in electric appliances.
Phenol formaldehyde is used for many purposes, although it is usually added to another monomer or polymer. One of the uses that may be of concern to the average consumer is its inclusion in “Bakelite”, heat resistant plastic cookware that are composed of it. But, heating may also cause the release of the toxic vapors.
Urea formaldehyde and other types make the news from time to time. In 2006, many Gulf Coast residents complained of headaches, nosebleeds and breathing difficulties after moving into the travel trailers provided by
Indoor air testing conducted by the CDC found high levels of formaldehyde vapors in many of the trailers, but the information was not released until 2008. Since then, lawsuits have been filed against FEMA by some of the residents. Formaldehyde exposure resulted in serious health issues.
Energy Star = Safety?
Phenol formaldehyde, urea formaldehyde and their derivatives are commonly used in the adhesives used to attach carpeting and plywood. It is a component of most
, which is used heavily in “Energy Star” houses. According to National Research Council Canada, the air exchange in these energy efficient homes occurs at the rate of 1/100 per hour, which means that the vapors build up to levels that can cause breathing problems in an otherwise healthy individual.
BREATHE DEEP. BREATHE GREEN!
The State of California recently banned use or sale of formaldehyde-based chemical RV toilets, because the chemical “meets the criteria as a non-biodegradable toxic chemical substance”.
In addition to exposure to the vapors from phenol formaldehyde based adhesives, people are also exposed to compounds that “release” the vapors as they break down. Several types of urea, common cosmetic ingredients in the US, are releasers of these toxic vapors.
Nose and throat cancer are associated with occupational exposure to formaldehyde. Many groups feel that exposure to
new construction materials
containing the resins is accompanied by the same risk. There are safer options.
Explore this site for safe alternatives to formaldehyde-containing products including insulation (batt and foam), kitchen cupboards, flooring, and finishes.
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