Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling gas that belongs to a group of organic compounds called aldehydes, which are formed by the oxidation of alcohols. Another typical aldehyde is acetaldehyde, a common chemical in the environment that may also be formed in the body from the breakdown of ethanol. Have you ever suffered from a hangover? Now you know why.
Formaldehyde has been linked to cancer over time and sometimes, exposure can lead to immediate health effects. The EPA warns that “exposure can lead to adverse health effects” and lists symptoms such as watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing. These effects can often be seen in people who were exposed to elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million).
High concentrations may also trigger attacks in people with asthma. Some individuals may develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde after being exposed to the VOC over a long time or in high concentrations.
The problem is that formaldehyde is one of of the most widely used chemicals in North America, and it hides in many, if not most, common household products. Even if you do your homework before you buy anything, experts agree that formaldehyde is pretty much impossible to avoid. This has become a huge public health concern, since the chemical has been linked to a greater risk of nose and throat cancer, leukemia and many other diseases.
Choose healthier alternatives whenever possible, opt for solid wood furniture or used pieces that have off-gassed and avoid permanent press fabrics. Go through your home or office space and make a list of things that contain formaldehyde:
The only way to actually remove formaldehyde from indoor air is with an air purifier that contains a deep-bed activated carbon filter. Not every air purifier can remove formaldehyde. In fact, the models available in most department stores won’t have the filters required to remove formaldehyde and other dangerous chemicals. They often rely on HEPA filters alone, which only trap particles and dust.
The best option for chemical and odor filtration is granular activated carbon. Activated carbon is made from natural substances such as charcoal or coconut shell. It is treated with oxygen to make it extremely porous, so that it can adsorb chemicals, gases and odors from gases or liquids.
Adsorption (different from absorption) describes a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde and the surface of the activated carbon, literally trapping the formaldehyde in the carbon.
That means the more activated carbon you have, the longer it will efficiently adsorb VOCs like formaldehyde. If you combine an activated carbon and HEPA filter in an air purifier, you will also get the added bonus of fewer particles, microorganisms and allergens floating around.
Air purifiers with activated carbon filters can eliminate formaldehyde and hundreds of other chemicals from the ambient air. Activated carbon has a high-efficiency rating when it comes to removing formaldehyde. In one independent test, an air purifier with an 18 lb. activated carbon filter was able to remove high levels of formaldehyde from a closed-off room in under six hours.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure a condition. Please consult a physician.