Page last updated:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Basic Logic of Formaldehyde
Effects of Continuous Exposure to Formaldehyde
Identifying and Measuring Formaldehyde Gas
Sources of Continuous Exposure to Formaldehyde
The Chemical Industry makes efforts to suppress information
The importance and urgency of this write-up is in the fact that formaldehyde off-gasses from a lot of common products, including nearly all of textiles (clothing, bedding sheets and pillow cases, textile upholstery, etc). It is a chemical that is commonly used in industrial glue (commonly used in pressed wood materials), or to give other substances (such as paint) glue like properties. As of 2019 nearly all of fabrics are treated with formaldehyde based chemical concoctions to give them desired properties (example link). For more information, see section: Sources of Continuous Exposure to Formaldehyde.
The key conclusion supported by my personal experience and all the findings and analysis presented on this page is this:
FORMALDEHYDE IS A NEUROLOGICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL INHIBITOR THAT REQUIRES ACTIVE EFFORT ON THE PART OF BODY’S METABOLIC PROCESSES (AND STRUCTURES THAT SUPPORT IT) TO KEEP FORMALDEHYDE UNDER CONTROL. WHEN THESE METABOLIC SYSTEMS ARE OVERWHELMED, CONTINUAL EXPOSURE TO FORMALDEHYDE BEGINS TO CAUSE PROGRESSIVE NEUROLOGICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL DEBILITATION WITH AN INCREASING PROBABILITY OF SUFFERING ACTUAL DAMAGE TO THE VARIOUS FUNCTIONS AND STRUCTURES OF THE ORGANISM.
Formaldehyde is a gas that easily mixes with water/liquid. When mixed with water, formaldehyde gives it glue like property. A mix of formaldehyde with water at a certain ratio produces FORMALIN – a liquid chemical that is used to preserve dead tissues. Due to its small molecular size and glue like property, formaldehyde easily penetrates and pervades through tissues FIXING and cross-linking (linking together) proteins and other compounds effectively stopping all biochemical changes and fixating biological structures. This fixative property of formaldehyde is why it is widely used to make glues, paints and other substances with pervasive glue-like properties.
The human body naturally produces and utilizes formaldehyde within controlled metabolic processes – the fact that is used by the chemical industry to discount any concerns over formaldehyde pollution. The problem is that humans (or any other living organism) were not meant to continually breath (or otherwise ingest) formaldehyde from external sources. In fact, formaldehyde gas is effectively used as an industrial fungicide, germicide and disinfectant [OSHA FactSheet: web image / original link] [Cancer.org] due to its deadly effect on living organisms. It simply stops life from happening by putting a stop to biochemical changes and fixating biological structures.
When formaldehyde (quite easily) enters the body from the surrounding environment, the organism has to divert resources toward metabolizing all the extra formaldehyde pollution in order to, quite literary, prevent destructive interference with body’s orderly, controlled biochemical processes and a potential damage to its various complex biological structures. So one of the immediate symptoms of formaldehyde intoxication is fatigue, mental stupor and sleepiness – as the activity of the body is suspended in order to metabolize the incoming formaldehyde.
Metabolism of formaldehyde requires OXYGEN – so as oxygen is diverted away to metabolizing formaldehyde, an individual may begin to experience “oxygen deprivation” – a sense like there is no fresh, vitalizing air – a kind of standing, dry air effect. This is a common initial symptom of formaldehyde below the conscious threshold (around 0.100 mg/m3) – where the concentration is not enough to cause perceivable smell and irritation (eyes, throat, skin) but enough to start overwhelming the organism and produce initial symptoms.
Of course, the symptoms of fatigue (low energy) and mental stupor (brain fog) is not only due to the fact of diversion of resources, but also due to the fact that formaldehyde pollution in itself begins to inhibit metabolic processes and neuro-physiological activity of the organism.
In a condition of prolonged, continuous exposure to formaldehyde, when the body can no longer keep up with metabolizing excess formaldehyde, damage to the organism can begin to occur. This is especially the case when someone spends long periods of time, day in and day out, in a formaldehyde polluted indoor environment.
This article is a product of personal experience of prolonged formaldehyde intoxication while living and working (for a whole year of 2018) inside a poorly ventilated, confined space (rented room) full of typical consumer products: pressed wood furniture, fabric office chair , curtains, a walk-in closet full of shirts and other typical textile products and a bed with cotton sheets and a cotton cover. The mattress was all cotton futon type that “accidentally” and thankfully turned out to have no formaldehyde, unlike nearly all other items. [The likely reason that it did not have formaldehyde is because Boric acid was used as both a fungicide and a flame retardant.]
This was a typical setup for a student or a creative person on a budget working on a project at home. However, what exacerbated the overall condition was the fact that room’s window was facing a wall (about 4 feet away and 7 feet high) where standing air also accumulated. That standing outside air was also getting infused with formaldehyde off-gassing from some old, cheap looking paint on the outside of the entire building complex. So even though I usually had an open window, and sometimes would put a fan in the window with a HEPA filter (which does NOT filter gases like formaldehyde) to get some airflow going, it seemed to do little to relief the symptoms. In fact, I noticed that I would sometimes feel even worse breathing in air that was coming from the outside, especially at night on my way to sleep (my bed was pressed against the wall where the window was). This was a complete mystery until I came back later to the place (after I had moved out) with a formaldehyde detector to measure occasional readings of over 0.100 mg/m3 of formaldehyde outside the window and stable readouts of formaldehyde off-gassing from the wall paint itself.
The overall condition was even further exacerbated by the fact that residence was located in the Valley region of Los Angeles that in itself gets plenty of standing hot air and pollution from car exhaust and air traffic (such as due to planes coming in and out of Van Nuys and Burbank airports). I theorize that this could contribute to a decreased amount of oxygen in the overall air or a lack of basically fresh, vitalizing air as compared to a place away from pollution that has plenty of trees and occasional rains to cleans out the atmosphere. This is of course to say nothing of potentially additional formaldehyde and other carbon based gases like carbon monoxide/dioxide floating around in the air especially during the day. Van Nuys is also one of the most polluting airports in the nation in terms of lead which is a toxic heavy metal. [Read this article] However, the immediate symptoms that I struggled with while in the residence would tend to “dissipate” when I was out and about outdoors – so potentially unfavorable outdoor conditions were not the primary factor.
What eventually unfolded into a full blown health crisis of an uncontrollably deteriorating health condition, initially began with some “odd” symptoms that were hard to clearly identify and link to specific causes and which for a time period could be basically tolerated and ignored [after initial efforts to determine causes were unsuccessful] in favor of focusing on an immediate workload relating to the development of other content for this website and some other projects. Eventually, full attention and effort had to be redirected at determining and thoroughly understanding the causative factor(s) behind the increasingly overwhelming symptoms of deterioration in health.
The primary cause of that deterioration was discovered to be formaldehyde intoxication – the discovery which lead to a few months of continuous research and discovery on the subject in order to develop an in depth understanding of formaldehyde properties and its effects on the functions and structures of a human organism (or basically any living, non-plant organism) along with being able to understand and relate experienced symptoms to the damaging effects of formaldehyde intoxication. It is this developing understanding which then lead to the formulation and implementation of solutions to effectively halt and reverse progression of its debilitating effects.
The Basic Logic of Formaldehyde
Understanding molecular structure and properties of formaldehyde can significantly aid in understanding of what it does inside an organism when interacting with other molecules (such as proteins) and substances in general such as WATER.
The amount of water varies, depending on the organ. Much of the water is in blood plasma (20% of the body’s total). According to a study performed by H.H. Mitchell, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the amount of water in the human heart and brain is 73%, the lungs are 83%, muscles and kidneys are 79%, the skin is 64%, and the bones are around 31%.
Formaldehyde molecule is very similar to WATER with an atom of CARBON in the middle; but unlike water, formaldehyde exists as a GAS in its natural state. Just like water, it is also a POLAR molecule and can act as an effective SOLVENT. Being a solvent doesn’t only mean that it can dissolve something; it also means that it can surround and hold molecules of other substances in suspense preventing them from action or interaction.
|FORMALDEHYDE (H2CO or CH2O)||WATER (H2O)|
Molar mass: 30.031 g/mol
Molar mass: 18.01528 g/mol
How polarity makes water behave strangely – Christina Kleinberg
Is CH2O Polar or Nonpolar?
The polar nature of its carbon-oxygen bond makes this a highly reactive compound. The oxygen atom attracts electrons more strongly than the carbon atom, resulting in a partial negative charge at one end of the compound and a partial positive charge at the other. This causes it to “stick” to other polar molecules and gives it some ability to accept and donate electrons.
Its small molecular size enables it to penetrate tissues and other substances easily, while the polar nature of its carbon-oxygen bond makes it an excellent solvent. This ability to dissolve and react with many compounds is the reason it is used for many industrial and medical applications.
In its pure state at room temperature, formaldehyde is a gas. It is most useful to science and industry in solution as a liquid. This is one reason why formaldehyde fumes are common where formaldehyde is used; it is quick to come out of solution and return to its gaseous state when exposed to air.
POLARITY means having opposite charges at different ends of the molecule due to uneven distribution of charges in the molecule’s construct. It is possible [subject to verification] that formaldehyde is less polar than water due to a balancing effect of carbon atom which could explain why it is a gas and not a liquid. Water is highly polar so its molecules attract much closer toward each other’s opposite ends. Due to this strong polarity and attraction toward each other, water is more likely to sit on a surface such as skin, whereas formaldehyde would pass through tissues with greater ease.
Polarity along with availability of electrons on one side (oxygen) and available electron placeholders on the other (hydrogen), make formaldehyde a very reactive molecule that will easily ATTRACT to, REACT with and form BONDS with other molecules. When dissolved in water, formaldehyde molecules will even react with each other and start to form POLYMERS (same type molecules binding together to form bigger structures) – a process called POLYMERIZATION.
CARBON is the basis of organic compounds. Water has no carbon – it cannot form solid compounds (except for ice of course) – but formaldehyde can and does.
Formaldehyde is a gas. Its small molecules (HCHO, of which the -CHO is the aldehyde group) dissolve rapidly in water, with which they combine chemically to form methylene hydrate, HO-CH2-OH. This is the form in which formaldehyde exists in aqueous solutions; its chemical reactivity is the same as that of formaldehyde. Methylene hydrate molecules react with one another, combining to form polymers. The liquid known as formalin contains 37-40% of formaldehyde and 60-63% of water (by weight), with most of the formaldehyde existing as low polymers. Higher polymers, which are insoluble, are sold as a white powder, paraformaldehyde. … Formalin contains about 10% methanol, added by the manufacturer because it slows down the polymerization that leads eventually to precipitation of paraformaldehyde.
Formaldehyde, formalin, paraformaldehyde and glutaraldehyde:
What they are and what they do.
What this means is that formaldehyde is not some “passive” pollutant that will peacefully lodge in fatty tissues when it accumulates in the body. It actively attracts and reacts with other molecules forming BONDS and leading to POLYMERIZATION of itself when reacting with waters in the body and more complex polymerization effects when other molecules are involved – such as linking proteins together. In scientific literature this effect is called CROSS-LINKING of proteins. It can be likened to a kind of “glue” that “glues up” DNA molecules (leading to DNA damage; hence, it is classified as a carcinogen), muscle tissues (leading to increasing muscular tension and stiffness; experiences of involuntary spasms and twitches; and eventual muscle loss as damage continues), and the like damage to NEUROLOGICAL STRUCTURES. These effects can be exacerbated when this glue-like effect of formaldehyde is combined with accumulation of HEAVY METALS and other forms of polluting particles.
As it is very similar to water, it readily mixes with it interacting with other compounds in the water. My experience of prolonged formaldehyde intoxication can be very much described as if the fluids in the body are progressively turning into LIQUID GLUE, or “dense waters,” with increasing loss of access to different body areas including the brain.
[I continue to expand on the glue analogy in EXTENDED SUMMARY INSIGHT in the IN-SIGHTS section at the end of this entire page.]
At the height of my intoxication I literally began to feel a taste of glue in my mouth. This emerging taste is what actually cued me in to do a Google search on “cardboard boxes toxic glue off-gassing” which lead me straight to FORMALDEHYDE! (The reason I typed in “cardboard boxes” is because I had some packaging cardboard boxes in my closet – it is the only thing I could associate with a taste of glue and something that I suspected could be off-gassing something, but in the end it turned out to be a lot of other things.)
You are basically increasingly turning into a “stiff” quite literally where it becomes progressively harder to engage in any form of activity or push fluids through the body. There is accumulating “clog up” tension in the head, in the muscles, in the stomach and down in the bowel followed by an internally perceived and physically apparent bloating or swelling – such as an increasingly protruding stomach with a sense of an increasing “hanging protrusion” in the bowel.
All of this can be generally described as a progressive loss of one’s BIOLOGICAL STRUCTURE as if you are being “consumed” or “dissolved” by something inside out with a progressive loss of sensation and control of your various structures. The skin, muscles and tissues in general begin to loose their vibrancy and start to kind of “hang” down in a sort of “apathetic” and “disconnected” state. The same happens with facial muscles and tissues as if the face begins to “hang” downward in a kind of lazy fashion with eyelids becoming increasingly heavy. You also start to feel, and increasingly look, “aged.”
It sort of feels like you are gaining weight or becoming “fat,” but it’s not that – I think, it is actually bloating with increasingly polluted waters in the body (heavy, dense liquids with, I would theorize, polymerized compounds), that the body is trying to push to extremities out of itself to prevent internal damage – which is what I think begins to occur after body’s metabolism is no longer capable of processing the mess that continuously incoming formaldehyde continues to create.
The problem is formaldehyde also BLOCKS SWEATING: so as it accumulates, it becomes ever more difficult to break a sweat even when exercising or being in a sauna. Basically, the only way to get rid of it (or whatever substances that it creates) is by increasing METABOLIC PROCESSING. Yet, formaldehyde also inhibits metabolism as it begins to actively interfere with biochemical processes in the body. So as it continues to accumulate, you eventually get an “avalanche effect” – where more and more formaldehyde begins to inhibit metabolism to greater and greater extent; and since metabolism is the primary way to process out formaldehyde, with decreased metabolism, more formaldehyde accumulates even faster having increasingly more overwhelming inhibition of whatever metabolism that is still going on. There is less and less of “you” and more and more of this overpowering glue like substance that seems to increasingly pervade through your physical structures eventually turning it in some kind of “carbon jello.”
Many articles will cite “loss of weight” as one of the symptoms of formaldehyde intoxication, but that’s only at the beginning stages when your body expends energy and resources to overcome the intoxication. Once the organism starts to get overwhelmed by the persistence of continuous advance of formaldehyde into the system, there is an emerging sense of apathy and exhaustion with an increasing loss of structural integrity of one’s organism with bloating or apparent “weight gain” as a result. So yes, “bad food” (fructose, saturated fats, food preservatives, etc) can definitely be a contributing factor, but it is the ACCUMULATION OF FORMALDEHYDE that may actually be one of the completely overlooked underlying causes of obesity epidemic in America. Especially that it is not just “obesity” in terms of gaining weight, it is also a case of “disfigurement” – a loss in the natural vibrancy and structure of the organism. With progressive accumulation, formaldehyde overwhelms both METABOLISM (biochemical processes) and biological STRUCTURES. Inhibition of metabolism leads to “low energy” which in turn can lead to craving for high calorie foods!
So a man who sits on a couch watching TV for hours on end munching on chips and soda may not actually be getting obese and disfigured from the “lack of exercise” and “high calorie foods” but form progressive accumulation of formaldehyde – off-gassing from the couch, pressed wood furniture, and most likely even from his clothing – debilitating his metabolism and the structural integrity of his organism in the process. Obviously, as continuous exposure to formaldehyde progressively inhibits metabolism, whatever food that is eaten is no longer effectively processed, while you also get into a condition of progressive, chronic fatigue where you can barely push yourself to do even simple, routine things to say nothing of some intense exercise or intellectual endeavors that are even more energy consuming. You simply no longer have energy to push around. The body itself begins to feel heavy like there is simply no energy in it, and you basically want to lie down and do nothing.
Also, even if not obese and disfigured, so many people seem to be caught up in some endless struggle to “stay in shape” which is actually a more underlying struggle to KEEP METABOLISM GOING and MAINTAIN THE STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY OF ONE’S ORGANISM. It’s a struggle against some ever present advance of the end to one’s structural whole – a sense that if you stopped, then you would somehow “dissolve into oblivion.” And this, in fact, is true in a case of continuous exposure to formaldehyde that could be present in countless of homes across America and the world.
“I am so tired / exhausted” has been a very common phrase in the U.S. while it used to be that decades ago people in America seemed to have more energy than they knew what to do with – with 1980’s as seemingly the last “high energy” decade which was followed by a progressive decline toward stagnation – both physical and mental.
Interestingly enough, during 1970’s tens of thousands of homes in America were insulated with urea-formaldehyde foam after which people began to experience debilitating symptoms. Eventually, the foam was banned, but “formaldehydization” of the public has evidently continued as formaldehyde is used in just about every other product out there. See section: Sources of Continuous Exposure to Formaldehyde.
And here is also your case of “chemical imbalance” in its true sense of the word. Depression is one of the symptoms of exposure to formaldehyde as it progressively inhibits neural connectivity and debilitates neurological structures. But depression of course is only one of possible neurological abnormalities. As individual’s mind is literally poisoned and neurological structures experience debilitation – this progressive AFFLICTION can bring about an onset of hostility, paranoia and psychosis especially if an individual was not as self-aware or as self-disciplined to keep the emerging symptoms of mental poisoning in check or if the individual already had a developing affliction that could be exacerbated even further with formaldehyde intoxication.
At the least, it can cause a perpetual sense of anxiety, unexplained irritation or a sense of perpetual overwhelm. As the statistic stands now, a whooping 1 in 6 Americans is on psychotropic drugs [Scientific American]. And look at the subheading of that article – right in the bullseye!
Antidepressants were most common, followed by anxiety relievers and antipsychotics.
The statistics are even more concerning when you look into the National Center for Health Statistics:
Percent of persons using at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days: 48.9% (2011-2014)
That’s almost HALF of all the survey participants – 1 in 2!
Number of drugs ordered or provided: 2.9 billion 
Useful references for general information:
What is Formaldehyde? – Definition, Uses & Structures
Formaldehyde (scientific description):
Medical Management Guidelines for Formaldehyde
AN UPDATE ON FORMALDEHYDE
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
The Logic of Metabolism
Metabolism: The chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. [Oxford Dictionary]
Yes, just like acetone and ammonia, formaldehyde is a “natural” chemical that is produced within the human body itself – in SMALL QUANTITIES DURING CONTROLLED METABOLIC PROCESSES.
The fact that it is “natural” and is produced as part of normal metabolic processes within the human body and other living organisms (like fruits) is often used as a from of DISINFORMATION* by the chemical industry to downplay the very serious dangers of exposure to formaldehyde off-gassing and the debilitating effects that continuous exposure to formaldehyde can cause.
*such as in the form of false or misleading information, or in the form of a “limited hangout” – giving partial truth while presenting it as a whole.
Here is a good example:
The general effects of formaldehyde on the human body are well-known. Inhaled formaldehyde is an irritant to the eyes, nose and throat at levels in the 0.5 – 1.0 ppm range. According to the large body of research available, the levels of formaldehyde in the air to which the public may experience (generally < 0.1 ppm) are not high enough to cause adverse health effects.
THIS IS A LIE!
Here is but one out of dozens of scientific reports on the dangers of formaldehyde exposure:
Toxic effects of formaldehyde on the urinary system
It has been reported that FA has toxic effects on the skin, respiratory system, nervous system, gastrointestinal system and urinary system, as well as allergic effects.
Notice that the concentration when adverse effects can begin to occur is not 0.5ppm but 0.05ppm – the concentration that can be found to off-gas from your typical wrinkle-free shirts and many other fabrics, to say nothing of formaldehyde based glues in mattresses and pressed wood furniture. But the “light” symptoms due to continuous exposure to lower concentrations – such as feeling “tired,” “sleepy” or sort of “numb” – may not be recognized as such and attributed to other apparent causes such as too much work, or lack of sleep, or lack of motivation, etc. and counteracted with substance intake such as coffee, soda, energy drinks and the like in an attempt to raise one’s energy level.
Another website sponsored by the Chemical Industry:
Very much like many other Volatile Organic* Compounds (VOC’s), formaldehyde doesn’t just liberally float around in nature, naturally. It is a highly CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE as far as natural processes are concerned. And while the body can technically metabolize formaldehyde, those metabolic processes were designed to mostly handle small quantities of formaldehyde produced within the body itself. They are not designed to handle a continuous volume of formaldehyde inhaled from the air and absorbed through the skin from external sources.
*Organic means carbon based.
Metabolization is not some automatic process. It usually requires specific ENZYMES – which are like “nano-bots” that work to transform one substance into another. So the chemical transformation (metabolism) requires that specific enzymes are present in the necessary volume and operate at the necessary paste to handle any kind of CHEMICAL POLLUTION entering from the environment.
The continuous onslaught of formaldehyde into the liquids and tissues of the organism is a condition that has never naturally existed to be accounted for by the metabolic processes of the body and so in the presence of continuous formaldehyde off-gassing, the metabolic system can be easily overwhelmed leaving uncontrolled formaldehyde to wreak havoc on the biochemical processes along with neurological, physiological and cellular structures and functions of the organism.
CONTROLLED AND INTEGRATED vs UNCONTROLLED AND VOLATILE: For example, METHANOL is an alcohol compound that is “naturally” present within the integrated structures of fruits. No one gets poisoned by the “integrated” methanol when eating fruits which are in fact very beneficial. Drinking straight methanol, however, is highly poisonous and can lead to serious damage and even death. The metabolic breakdown of methanol (via alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme) results in FORMALDEHYDE! The metabolic breakdown of formaldehyde (via aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme) results in FORMIC ACID which is also “naturally occurring in the body” but is highly toxic and damaging in uncontrolled amounts. Note, do not confuse methanol with ethanol which is “consumable” alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. See the following references:
Drugs of Abuse: Ethanol, Methanol & Ethylene Glycol – Toxicology | Lecturio
Alcohol Metabolism, Methanol Poisoning, Fatty Change Alcoholic Hypoglycemia Fomepazole
It is similar logic for acetone and ammonia which are both “naturally occurring in the body.” Just because they naturally occur in the body in some controlled amounts during controlled metabolic processes does not make them somehow “non-problematic” in their isolated and volatile state outside of the body – as both breathing or ingesting straight acetone or ammonia is highly poisonous.
Below is a very good article indicating how formaldehyde is handled in mice, which we can assume is similar to humans or any mammals. First, formaldehyde can be metabolized by enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase 5 (ADH5); if that is absent or not available, formaldehyde pollutants begin to bind to DNA initiating DNA damage. The REPAIR of this damage is mediated by DNA cross-link repair protein (FANCD2); but if that is somehow unavailable, then the damage continues.
It requires ACTIVE WORK on part of the body to handle formaldehyde and prevent damage to the organism from formaldehyde accumulation. If there is more formaldehyde coming in than such metabolic processes can handle, then uncontrollable formaldehyde intoxication begins to take place. This even occurs with formaldehyde that is produced within the body, if it is not handled properly, so what to say about formaldehyde that can be invading the body uncontrollably and continuously from environmental sources of formaldehyde off-gassing?
Note, ENDOGENOUS means that it is produced within the body itself, but obviously formaldehyde is still the same regardless of how it ends up inside the body.
Endogenous Formaldehyde Is a Hematopoietic Stem Cell Genotoxin and Metabolic Carcinogen.
Excellent article that supports the point above:
These findings could provide a new target for developing cancer drugs, as some types of cancer — notably BRCA1 or BRCA2 breast cancers — lack the DNA repair enzymes to protect themselves from formaldehyde toxicity. The researchers found that treating laboratory-grown cells with folate leads to the release of formaldehyde, and speculate this could lethally damage the DNA of the BRCA cancer cells that cannot repair this damage. Healthy surrounding cells would not be damaged since they have functioning DNA repair mechanisms.
Note! The cancer cells* are the ones that do NOT have working enzymes to deal with formaldehyde toxicity. It takes the presence and active effort on part of specific enzymes to protect the cells from damage by formaldehyde! If that enzyme is somehow missing or inactive, lets say in some part of female breast and she is wearing a bra infused with formaldehyde [see section FORMALDEHYDE IN FABRICS] that can easily absorb through the skin into tissues… – you do the math. How did those cells turn into cancer – damaged – cells to begin with? Could an enzyme that deals with formaldehyde be overwhelmed and exhausted, or damaged by too much formaldehyde to begin with?
*Cancer cells can be viewed as “sick,” damaged cells disconnected from the overall structural intelligence of the body. Cancer cells is a sign of some abnormal condition within the structure of the organism – how does a case of such ABNORMALITY develop in the first place?
Most enzymes are proteins in themselves:
Effects of Continuous Exposure to Formaldehyde
What is truly frightening is that continuous exposure to formaldehyde coming in from outside of the body, over time may actually EXHAUST METABOLIC RESOURCES to continuously deal with an endless stream of formaldehyde, at which point the damage becomes all but inevitable if formaldehyde continues to find its way inside the organism in one way or another.
As an analogy, you can think of a worker that lays bricks. If the actions of a worker who passes the bricks and the one who lays them are well coordinated where the passer gives bricks to the layer allowing him to work at a comfortable pace and take occasional breaks, then we have a smooth operation and construction of a high quality brick wall. But if the passer continues to pass more bricks to the point where the layer cannot keep up, bricks will continue to accumulate in a disorderly fashion. The laying worker will become exhausted faster; he may even start throwing bricks away from himself in order to battle the overwhelm and then can become completely frustrated and leave altogether, or collapse under an accumulating pile of bricks being tossed his way.
Formaldehyde, being one of the simplest carbon based molecules, is like a specific type of “brick” that is produced and used by the body in a very specific way under controlled and coordinated conditions. Receiving a continuous stream of formaldehyde from the environment for hours, months and years is a condition that has never before existed to be accounted for by the metabolic structures and processes of the organism. Hence, such mechanisms can themselves experience “confusion,” “dis-coordination,” and quite literally a “dis-order.”
The studies that establish a link between neurodegeneration and accumulation of formaldehyde in the brain (and other parts of the nervous system) usually refer to endogenous formaldehyde – the one that is produced within the body – with the reason why metabolism of formaldehyde itself declines seemingly remaining in obscurity. It must be the “age.” But an alternative reason may very well be the fact that exposure to continuous, uncontrolled formaldehyde coming in from environmental sources may simply exhaust the internal metabolic mechanisms that have been evolutionary developed to handle small and predictable volumes of endogenous formaldehyde produced by the body itself, not a continual stream of formaldehyde coming in from the outside.
As is noted in this report cited in the section above, adverse effects to formaldehyde exposure can begin at around 0.050ppm. This is the concentration that can be found to off-gas from many fabrics, but the value for any single item rarely exceeds 0.100ppm – above which point formaldehyde becomes more clearly perceptible. For a trained or sensitized individual, it can be perceptible even at a level of 0.030ppm and most people should be able to sense it below 0.100ppm if given very basic awareness about formaldehyde and asked to tune into their senses when smelling an item with formaldehyde off-gassing. The actual smell cannot normally be perceived below 0.100ppm, but some form of IRRITATION or other SYMPTOMS can.
In line with personal experience and the fact that formaldehyde molecules can easily penetrate tissues, when formaldehyde enters the body through inhalation, it may simply GO THROUGH TISSUES heading straight into the brain and down through the body into stomach and other areas where it has to be dealt with locally. Sure, SOME of it may react and metabolize in the air ways, and occasional exposure to manageable amounts may be harmless and completely unnoticeable, but dwelling in formaldehyde gas for extended periods of time will cause progressive SATURATION of body waters and tissues with formaldehyde where the body will have to expend continuous efforts and resources to handle the intoxication and prevent damage.
And the damage caused from continuous exposure to formaldehyde can be quite extensive.
Formaldehyde is often used in biology to preserve tissue specimens. Formaldehyde is useful for this purpose as it kills all bacteria and fungi, and can preserve the shape of a specimen by bonding with proteins and DNA.
For the same reason, formaldehyde it is often used in embalming fluids intended to delay decay in human corpses, as well as in the preservation of animal specimens for dissection.
. . .
Unfortunately, the same properties of formaldehyde that make it an excellent solvent, antiseptic, and preservative can also make it dangerous to human health. It is toxic to the human body if ingested, and can cause irritation of the skin, lungs, and sinuses which can sometimes lead to long-term problems.
The U.S. government lists formaldehyde as a “known carcinogen,” meaning it has is known to increase the risk of cancer with repeated exposure.
. . .
The European Union has banned the import of some formaldehyde-containing and formaldehyde-treated products due to safety concerns.
b Formaldehyde Fixation
Formaldehyde fixes cellular structures by cross-linking proteins. … Because formaldehyde has a low molecular weight, it can penetrate cells and tissues rapidly.
In the fields of histology, pathology, and cell biology, FIXATION is the preservation of biological tissues from decay due to autolysis or putrefaction. It terminates any ongoing biochemical reactions and may also increase the treated tissues’ mechanical strength or stability.
Formaldehyde solution known as formalin is used for preservation of dead tissues because of its fixation effect cited above.
For overly technical and/or large articles, I like to extracted key points and conclusions to have a good understanding of the issue without having to understand all the complex involved (when I feel like I do need to understand some technical term, I Google it and at least try to get a basic idea):
International Journal of Anatomy and Physiology
Toxic effects of formaldehyde on the nervous system
“Formaldehyde can cause nervous system damage by its known ability to react with and form cross linking with proteins, DNA and unsaturated fatty acids (Thrasher et al., 1990). These mechanisms could cause damage to virtually any cell in the body, since all cells contain these (proteins, DNA and unsaturated fatty acids) substances. FA can react with the nerve proteins (neuroamines) and nerve transmitters (For example catecholamine) which could impair normal nervous system function and cause endocrine disruption (Thrasher et al., 1990).”
“Chronic exposure to FA has been associated with immunological hypersensitivity as measured by elevated circulating IgG and IgE auto antibodies to human serum albumin. (Public Review Draft, 2007).”
“The response for any toxic substance first starts at the chemical level and any changes that occur in the structures are observed as the damage continues.”
“In the studies conducted by Gurel et al.,(2005) and Sarsilmaz et al.,(2003) on FA neurotoxicity, FA was observed to affect cerebral oxidant/antioxidant systems and cause oxidative damage. The reactive oxygen species (ROS), including singlet oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, superoxide anion, and hydroxyl radical, are essential for normal biological processes and are produced physiologically. The excessive production and accumulation of ROS can become hazardous to cells and tissues (Songur et al., 2010). These ROS are important mediators of cellular injury and play a role in oxidative stress, and can be present in condition where toxicity is occurred. Oxidative stress that are initiated by ROS can be regulated by cellular defence mechanisms of the body, including superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione peroxidase ( Songur et al.,2010). The brain has a high content of unsaturated fatty acids and requires very high amounts of oxygen. Since the rates of oxidative metabolic activities in the brain are relatively high and antioxidant enzymes activities are low, the neurons in the CNS are more vulnerable to toxicity or ischemia (Irmak et al.,2003; Songur et al.,2010).”
[Wikipedia: Ischemia or ischaemia is a restriction in blood supply to tissues, causing a shortage of oxygen that is needed for cellular metabolism (to keep tissue alive).]
The toxic effects of formaldehyde on the nervous system.
Note the sentence:
It is hypothesized that inhalation of FA, during the early postnatal period, is linked to some neurological diseases that occur in adults.
So there is a possibility for even a delayed, long term impact!
Could continuous exposure to formaldehyde be the primary cause of a growing AUTISM EPIDEMIC?!
Formaldehyde in brain: an overlooked player in neurodegeneration?
Note the comparison between normal brain and the one with Alzheimer’s (credit Wikipedia):
It looks as if the brain is being gradually corroded or “dissolved” in some acid and that “acid” is FORMALDEHYDE! It may do well to preserve dead tissues, but it pollutes the living cells out of existence. Note, that it is already existing cavities in the structure of the brain that are becoming increasingly enlarged. Those cavities are naturally filled with fluids where excess formaldehyde is likely to accumulate and then continuously make its way into the surrounding tissues “corroding” them in the process.
Formaldehyde and alzheimer’s disease: A brief history
Alzheimer’s Disease-Like Pathologies and Cognitive Impairments Induced by Formaldehyde in Non-Human Primates.
Acute formaldehyde exposure induced early Alzheimer-like changes in mouse brain.
Formaldehyde induces diabetes-associated cognitive impairments.
Depression, Diabetes and Dementia: Formaldehyde May Be a Common Causal Agent; Could Carnosine, a Pluripotent Peptide, Be Protective?
Endogenous Formaldehyde Is Related To Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease
The human blood formaldehyde is dynamically kept approximately around 0.087±0.014 mM under physiological conditions. The endogenous formaldehyde is gradually increased and accumulated in human body especially in the central nerve system as aging, resulting in chronic aldehyde damage to human brain including white matter and grey matter. The chronic aldehyde damage is thought as one of the important factors related to sporadic neurodegeneration. According to this viewpoint, clinical investigation has been carried out that the concentration of morning uric formaldehyde is found to be positively related to the degree of dementia: the more severe the dementia, the higher the concentration of uric formaldehyde of the patients.
Urine Formaldehyde Predicts Cognitive Impairment in Post-Stroke Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The findings suggest that measuring the concentration of formaldehyde in overnight fasting urine could be used as a potentially noninvasive method for evaluating the likelihood of ensuing cognitive impairment or dementia.
Alzheimer’s Incidence is Rising, Not Falling, a Researcher Says
At the first Advances in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Therapies Focus Meeting (AAT-AD/PD), held March 15–18 in Turin, Italy, Walter Rocca of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, summarized recent research from his group and others that suggests the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and early onset Alzheimer’s is going up, not down. The reasons are unclear but could be environmental factors
10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
The increasing inhibition in NEURAL CONNECTIVITY as well as in the general ability to ENERGIZE and DIRECT one’s NEURAL AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – is the general, mechanical explanation for much of the described symptoms.
Relating early symptoms of Alzheimer to the intensifying symptoms due to prolonged and continuous exposure to formaldehyde [from personal experience]:
The estimated exposure, judging from experienced symptoms, was 0.080 – 0.300 mg/m3. (I had already moved out from the place before I learned about formaldehyde and purchased an electro-chemical formaldehyde detector in order to measure actual concentrations). Also note, that this is what I began experiencing after several months of living and working in a poorly ventilated, polluted residence as a male in my mid 30’s with generally good health, strong metabolism and no known allergies or disorders. Apart from dust, you cannot actually SEE “indoor pollution.” You just FEEL like something is off, experiencing some odd symptoms. With time the “feeling” and the symptoms begin to get stronger to the point when you start to feel like you are entering a phase of some real and increasing debilitation.
While all of this may seem shocking, you have to realize that in some way this was all a part of my consciousness development project. If something was inhibiting my consciousness and causing debilitation, I wanted to understand exactly what that was and how to deal with it. And this whole experience, while it was definitely not pleasant when I was going through it, resulted in a great amount of experiential data and insight which eventually lead to all the research on formaldehyde and a write-up of this page.
1) Memory loss that disrupts daily life
– Forgetfulness: emerging difficulty to recall things easily, or connect one thing to another. Feeling “stuck” or “spaced out.”
2) Challenges in planning or solving problems
– Thinking itself becomes increasingly more difficult. There is a sense of increasing “mental locking” – like being prevented by something from “pushing through” with an effort to think. This can even be experienced on a level of MUSCULAR TENSION, PRESSURE, OR “LOCKING” around one’s head and neck and up one’s spine as if one is wearing some kind of a constricting suit that prevents the motion of overall energy and more specific impulses and signals. An interesting note in this article: Formaldehyde in Noodlefish: “The texture of noodlefish adulterated with formaldehyde is likely to be stiff since formaldehyde would react with the fish protein and result in muscle toughness and reduce its palatability.“
– On one side there is this emerging and increasing LOCKING EFFECT; on another, there is a LOW ENERGY EFFECT – a sense like there is simply no “juice” to push around; like there is no more “serotonin” to spend on thinking and processing information or no more ENERGY RESOURCE for generating and directing any kind of action or activity in general.
– There is a more specific experience of ENERGY DISSIPATION. Normally, energy would gather in my stomach area which I could then direct, consistently and continuously, into physical and mental activity. With formaldehyde, energy would dissipate, as if it “evaporated” or “leaked out” from the gut somehow before it could be aggregated and concentrated for directed use. It’s like you are trying to get going, but the energy just dissipates and instead you are feeling “tired” and “sleepy,” yet again.
3) Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
– Increasing difficulty with directing and maintaining attention/focus/concentration along with directing continuous action toward a desired goal. Increasing difficulty to formulate goals to begin with.
4) Confusion with time or place
– This can include loosing track of time: a sense like one is stuck in a “time warp” where time is not moving, like being stuck in a day to day repeating sequence of events where time is not progressing. Every day seems like the same, repeating experience. There is an emerging LOSS OF DIFFERENTIATION. Everything begins to feel “the same” – this feeling begins to feel “forced” and unnatural.
5) Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
– In late stages of intoxication, I was literally loosing vision. There is a sense as if your eye sight is “dissolving” – it is becoming more blurry and more difficult to focus on something. The “blurriness” was first occasional and temporary, but then it became “progressive” to where even when I would leave to go outside, I had an increasingly difficult time looking at things with the same level of sharpness.
6) New problems with words in speaking or writing
– Emerging difficulty in connecting to appropriate words when trying to express something; spacing out during conversations and loosing track of what someone is saying or loosing track of one’s own thoughts.
7) Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
– Forgetting where something is and having difficulty remembering one’s actions in placing it. It’s just “blank.” You even start to forget WHAT you have to begin with. It’s a progressive loss of touch with the surrounding environment and its manageability.
8) Decreased or poor judgment
– Feeling slow, “spaced out,” indifferent; finding difficulty with registering or processing new information. Increasing difficulty with directing and maintaining attention on something. Noticing emerging “gaps” in continuous attention. The intention / effort to direct attention is met with some odd “resistance” – as if something is “pressing” into one’s neuro-muscular system. The pressure can even be felt into one’s eyes as if something is trying to close your eyes when you try to keep them open. The pressure extends down into one’s neck and through the spinal cord.
This same “pressure” results in an emerging difficulty with directing one’s PHYSICAL ACTIONS – such as in difficulty with directing and coordinating one’s physical movements. There is a noticeable emerging “disconnect” and “gaps” between intention and the flow of that intention through the nerve channels to result in smooth effortless motion. For example, in trying to grab something such as a computer mouse, you can somehow miss it landing your hand in an offset position. This lack of coordination as well as emerging gaps in CONTINUOUS ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS leads to accidentally knocking things down or dropping things when trying to grab them – as if they somehow fall out of one’s hands.
9) Withdrawal from work or social activities
– Basically, becoming increasingly “overwhelmed” by the expressive presence and activities of other people in one’s vicinity due to a progressive decrease in the ability to handle or process the inflow of sensory information and other information requiring mental energy and resources. The interaction with people feels more “demanding,” “problematic” or “irritating” – like there is simply no energy to deal with other people and their issues anymore.
10) Changes in mood and personality
– As overall energy level and ability declines, the mood becomes more “negative” – increased irritability, lethargy, the onset of “de-pression” and lack of will or interest; becoming more resentful, rejecting, dismissive, or hostile as any kind of interaction begins to seem more overwhelming and problematic.
– “Personality” is a product of neurological structure and activity. One’s sense of self begins to deteriorate along with one’s ability for self-expression and interaction with others and the general environment. There is an increasing sense of being “afflicted,” “poisoned” or “overwhelmed” by something which is usually attributed to something in the field of one’s awareness which is NOT formaldehyde – unless the person gets educated and is able to IDENTIFY AND CONNECT neurological and physiological symptoms to effects of the toxin and not MIS-ASSOCIATE A SENSE OF AFFLICTION with perceived environmental factors – such as something that was said or done by another person that SEEMS irritating or overwhelming, or some circumstantial/situational conditions such as connecting a sense of “overwhelm” to some problems (such as “too much work”) and environmental conditions (such as “too many things” in one’s vicinity).
Yet even more technical links:
This one is very technical but at the same time is one of the most important articles that, in abstract, explained to me some of the neurological effects as related to formaldehyde’s POLYMERIZATION function – of how it appears to “bind” different areas of the nervous system making thinking, along with muscular coordination, increasingly more difficult.
Formaldehyde at Low Concentration Induces Protein Tau into Globular Amyloid-Like Aggregates In Vitro and In Vivo
In the present study, based on atomic force microscopy (AFM) observation, we have found that formaldehyde at low concentrations induces tau polymerization whilst acetaldehyde does not. Neuronal tau misfolds and aggregates into globular-like polymers in 0.01–0.1% formaldehyde solutions. … Kinetic study shows that tau significantly misfolds and polymerizes in 60 minutes in 0.1% formaldehyde solution. However, presence of 10% methanol prevents protein tau from polymerization. This suggests that formaldehyde polymerization is involved in tau aggregation.
Note, adding methanol to formaldehyde solution prevents formaldehyde polymerization.
[Wikipedia] Tau proteins are proteins that stabilize microtubules. They are abundant in neurons of the central nervous system and are less common elsewhere… Pathologies and dementias of the nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are associated with tau proteins that have become defective and no longer stabilize microtubules properly.
Bam! What is also very interesting is that I often craved fruits and the craving increased at the height of intoxication to the feeling of “raw necessity” – a sense like I must have fruits. Fruits contain methanol. Methanol is usually metabolized into formaldehyde, but I theorize that my metabolism may have actually been using the properties of methanol instead in order to prevent polymerization induced by already existing formaldehyde.
The body has intelligence. Metabolic processes are controlled and guided by intelligence resident in the body – so at different times and under different circumstances, different chemicals may be metabolized and used by the body in different ways. The fruits that I craved were bananas, oranges, and apples (of Gala or similar type).
As a side note, there is actually an emerging understanding that quantum vibrations in MICROTUBULES form the basis of consciousness:
Discovery of quantum vibrations in ‘microtubules’ inside brain neurons supports controversial theory of consciousness
Consciousness depends on anharmonic vibrations of microtubules inside neurons, similar to certain kinds of Indian music, but unlike Western music which is harmonic.
Here is another useful note:
Formaldehyde increases intracellular calcium concentration in primary cultured hippocampal neurons partly through NMDA receptors and T-type calcium channels
Formaldehyde at high concentrations is a contributor to air pollution. It is also an endogenous metabolic product in cells, and when beyond physiological concentrations, has pathological effects on neurons. Formaldehyde induces mis-folding and aggregation of neuronal tau protein, hippocampal neuronal apoptosis, cognitive impairment and loss of memory functions, as well as excitation of peripheral nociceptive neurons in cancer pain models.
It is interesting how seemingly the most technical articles provide direct support for the logic I was trying to describe at the outset – regarding POLYMERIZATION effect of formaldehyde and the danger of continuous exposure from environmental sources.
Here is yet another report on the link between tau abnormalities and neurodegenerative diseases:
Tau in Alzheimer Disease and Related Tauopathies
And here is a very technical article on DNA damage due to formaldehyde’s cross-linking activity:
Genotoxicity of formaldehyde: molecular basis of DNA damage and mutation
Identifying and Measuring Formaldehyde Gas
Formaldehyde concentration in air is usually measured in ppm – parts per million or mg/m3 – milligrams per cubic meter. Coincidentally, for formaldehyde at lower values, ppm and mg/m3 measure is almost the same because formaldehyde molar mass of 30.031 g/mol is close to the conversion factor of 24.45. Basically, for formaldehyde:
ppm = (24.45/30.031) * mg/m3
mg/m3 = (30.031/24.45) * ppm
Conversion Calculator: “mg/m3 to ppm” or “ppm to mg/m3”
You can also see: Understanding Units of Measurement
If you don’t have any measuring devices, you can engage in SENSORY IDENTIFICATION – basically, just smelling an item and monitoring your reactions, both immediate and delayed.
Acidic, vinegar like smell – increasingly at concentration above 0.100 mg/m3. This light scent is associated with the smell of “new fabric.” It is only at much higher concentrations when the smell becomes strong and repulsive such as when you are inhaling fumes from a bottle of formalin – basically straight formaldehyde dissolved in water. The smell is not easily perceptible below 0.100 mg/m3.
DRYNESS in your mouth/throat area. Inhaling formaldehyde at lower concentrations (around 0.05 mg/m3) gives an impression as if you are breathing in dust. It’s that dryness with perception of “particles” which is actually chemical particles of formaldehyde causing dryness and tiny point irritation. As if you are breathing dry sand dust – could be another useful analogy.
Note, formaldehyde based solutions are actually used to treat a condition of excessive sweating known as “hyperhidrosis”:
Hyperhidrosis—Causes and Treatment of Enhanced Sweating
Formaldehyde Solution With Applicator
Itching/Burning/Stinging sensation in your nose, on your tongue and/or down your throat, or on your skin – such as experiencing a sense of inflammation (a sensation of warming up, burning or irritation). At lower concentrations, these effects are not going to be very strong, obviously. Otherwise, formaldehyde presence would simply be too noticeable and objectionable. You have to basically TUNE INTO YOUR SENSES and MONITOR what you may be experiencing in terms of the CHANGES that are occurring.
Weakening/Tensing/Twitching muscles: You can experience some form of muscular tension/contraction in your facial muscles with possible small twitches such as in your eye lids and/or a more delayed reaction of an onset of involuntary muscle relaxation as if your body suddenly wants to go to “sleep,” heaviness, gripping tension in the back of the neck and/or around the head.
Stomach reactions: as you inhale, you may feel like something is going down into your stomach and causing some reactions like “growling.”
“Hit” in the head: inhaling formaldehyde, especially above 0.100 mg/m3 can produce this “hit in the head” effect as if you just inhaled some “heavy” or “indigestible” air. A part of this is a sense of PRESSURE! – as a kind of im-pression into your face as if the air had some strange “solidity” to it which causes an averse reaction.
Repulsion: you may just pick up something, take a sniff, and be repulsed without attention to any specific sensory details. It’s sort of like: “Yeah. There is definitely chemicals here.”
Formaldehyde gas in ambient air can give a perception of dry air (as formaldehyde causes dryness) or “standing air” or air that “lacks oxygen” or lacks some form of vitality or “freshness.”
Touching fabrics infused with formaldehyde can result in noticeable dryness of hands. As a lot of fabrics now contain formaldehyde (and evidently have been for a long time), this sense of dryness along with this specific “scent” is commonly associated with “new fabric feel.” However, if one pays attention, neither the dryness nor the “dry scent” leave the fabric even after it is used and washed which then commonly associates again with “newly washed fabric feel.”
Most textile products (clothing, bedding sheets, curtains, even pillows!, etc.) off-gas formaldehyde around 0.050mg/m3 – some less, some more. And unfortunately most people are unaware of formaldehyde or the fact that the “new fabric scent” is actually the scent of formaldehyde.
I never knew about formaldehyde until early 2019 at the height of formaldehyde intoxication when my organism reached some limit of “chemical pollution” and was saying “no more.” Once I learned about formaldehyde and connected the above symptoms and sensory reactions to formaldehyde, especially when validated by measurements on a formaldehyde detector, it’s like a new world opened up. Formaldehyde is everywhere! You have to go to extended length to find something that actually does not contain formaldehyde. It seems insane in light of the scientific findings on the dangers of formaldehyde intoxication, but it is what it is. This issue will probably explode into the public awareness sooner or later.
If you simply want to measure the presence of formaldehyde in ambient air in your home, you can use a single-use test kit, but these will not tell you what specifically may be off-gassing formaldehyde:
ELETROCHEMICAL FORMALDEHYDE DETECTORS
The great benefit of electrochemical measuring devices is that they are relatively inexpensive, widely available and can take immediate measurements which is extremely useful when try to identify sources of off-gassing and assess an approximate concentration. One big downside however is that due to the nature of the sensor, it will respond to other gases, not just formaldehyde – like fumes from alcohol, acetone, gasoline, methanol, carbon dioxide, and the like. These are called “interfering gases.” This is something to be aware of, but I found it to be not at all a problem when used in combination with sensory identification. Seeing the device produce a measurement for formaldehyde when you can also sense chemical presence has been EXTREMELY USEFUL in enhancing recognition and validating one’s sensations.
There is a common tendency to downplay even one’s own senses because the issue is quite overwhelming: you need things and coming to terms that you may need to get rid of and then avoid a lot of stuff is not easy – so there is a tendency to really invalidate one’s own sensations in order to avoid dealing with yet another problem and just “sweep it under the rug” kind of thing especially if you already have a lot going on in life that you need to tend to.
But when you experience symptoms AND you see a measurement AND you see where it is coming from – it ensures proper recognition and powers the motivation to take action.
Also, especially in the beginning of the process, when you have different things in your space and experience symptoms, it can be very difficult to pin point the exact source(s) of formaldehyde off-gassing. It is a very airy substance, and taking everything out, somewhere, and then introducing one item at a time to see if that is the cause of symptoms is simply not feasible. There could be formaldehyde off-gassing even from the ventilation system if there was some funky glue or paint or isolation material used that is off-gassing formaldehyde into the air ducts.
An electrochemical measuring device helps to determine where the gas is coming from: as you walk around and bring it close to various items – if an items is off-gassing formaldehyde, you will see a rise in the measurement.
I tried four models from Amazon. The first three models were by EG Air, but it seems it is just a brand label as there are exact same looking devices with other brand labels on Amazon and around the Internet. The first three devices must be calibrated in fresh air – you just take it outside and press “Calibration” and wait for a few minutes for it to calibrate – whereas the orange Temptop device comes factory pre-calibrated. I actually prefer calibration because if you are not confident in what the device is doing, you have that option to have it basically reset with calibration.
HCHO measure is for formaldehyde. TVOC is for Total Volatile Organic Compounds. PM2.5/1.0/10 is for measuring small particulate matter (PM) in the air – micro particles – a component of harmful pollution. The PM value goes up quite considerably in smoke for example. The values 2.5, 1.0 and 10 are for the size of particles measured in micrometer (one millionth of a meter).
|TOP PICK||NEXT BEST||NOT RECOMMENDED||NOT RECOMMENDED|
1) Black Model (TOP PICK): Conservative, stable values. You can select sensitivity rate – the rate at which it will register a measurement. You can select the screen to turn off in 1, 10 or 30 minutes (you turn it back on by pressing any button). This is extremely useful for saving battery life if you want to have the device on for a while. The battery life itself is great and the unit is compact. The only downside is that it does not have a pull out stand so it won’t stand upright on its own, but I didn’t find that to be a problem.
2) Grey Model (NEXT BEST): I have used this as a “control device” especially in my initial period of testing these devices. It helps to have two so you can check the values against one another if you doubt the measurements. This device is bulkier; you cannot turn off the screen; and it does not have a measure for temperature and humidity which is kind of useful when measuring formaldehyde gas. Air humidity is something to take into account: when humidity is too high or too low, the measurement may be off. Also, even though it does have a stand, it is not at all stable due to the curved shape of its base. It easily falls to the side when disturbed.
3) White Model (NOT RECOMMENDED): Two out of three units that I tried were defective. One was simply stuck at a value of 0.007 for HCHO and the other fluctuated at low values regardless of what I measured or how many times I tried to calibrate it. The one unit that worked seemed to be too sensitive. The battery life is abysmal in this device, and it does look more like a toy. However, I did like its display and menu, how it holds in the hand and its stability when using the stand. It was the first model that I tried, and the first unit that I bought was the working one. So even though I would not select this one given all the choices, I still have a positive feeling attached to this model as it was the one that helped me make an initial breakthrough in formaldehyde awareness.
4) Temtop LKC-1000S+ (NOT RECOMMENDED): It is more expensive. It is bulkier. The micro particle values seemed substantially exaggerated and fluctuate too much. While micro particles was not my main interest, still it is a useful additional measure that should be accurate and reliable. Overall, the value for HCHO (formaldehyde) seemed in line with the first two devices, but I found that sometimes it simply failed to respond and at other times the value seemed to go up unnecessarily higher and faster until it settled down to be compatible with the other devices. It measures up to TWO DECIMAL POINTS whereas other devices have THREE. I realized this actually makes a noticeable difference as three decimal points just seems more accurate and makes it easier to see fluctuations in values – like when the measurement is rising – which also indicates that the device is working. When it just sits there at one value, it makes you wonder more if the device is even working. I simply found this meter to be unreliable. In addition, the display does not show all the measurement values on one screen at once – you have to press buttons to see different measurement values. And the port for connecting a USB wire for charging is at the BOTTOM so you cannot use the stand and be charging at the same time – talking about a design flaw! On the other devices the charging port is on a side. Its TVOC (Total Volatile Organic Compounds) measurement was more in line with the Black Model, whereas the Grey Model value for TVOC was about ten times greater and would increase faster. The devices that can provide a reliable measure for TVOC to compare against are literally in the thousands of dollars and they do not even identify what gases are being detected giving a total measure for any kind of VOC gas present.
What is VOC Meter?
Example of a industrial grade VOC meters:
Find the ones that measure general VOC’s and Google for prices – these instruments cost thousands of dollars, and a general VOC meter is NOT capable to identify what specific gas it is measuring.
Also, beware of misinformation. For sure, you cannot expect much from a $100 device and you absolutely need to make sure that it works properly when you buy one, but they do detect and measure formaldehyde, in my experience, quite well. You just have to be aware of the fact that the sensor will respond to other gases that, I am guessing, may have similar molar mass to formaldehyde and/or some similar properties. I do not exactly understand how these sensors work so for now I do not have a clear explanation as to why the sensor also responds to some other gases. But they are not “fake” as this site misleadingly claims:
Yes, these meters will respond to fumes from fruits and fruit juices, possibly because fruits actually contain methanol that may end up in its fumes. Also, I found this blogger’s experiment to be educational where he himself used a device with an electrochemical sensor to test the effectiveness of activated carbon filter to remove formaldehyde gas:
I made some efforts to find information on the internet about sensor technologies, but… the information I found so far is definitely quite technical:
Formaldehyde Gas Sensors: A Review
Review of Portable and Low-Cost Sensors for the Ambient Air Monitoring of Benzene and Other Volatile Organic Compounds
The only portable measuring device that I found for Formaldehyde that has NO INTERFERING GASES is this one: https://www.rkiinstruments.com/product/fp-31/
You can read its manual provided in the “Download” section. It works by pumping air onto a COLORIMETRIC TABLET that becomes darker in response to formaldehyde and, according to the manufacturer, only formaldehyde – no interfering gases. The resulting shade is then measured with a photo sensor that produces the resulting value on screen. [I have not yet found out if tablets are single use and how much they cost.] It only produces a cumulative value at 15 or 30min interval – no real time measurement. And it has a maximum range of 1.0ppm which is good enough for most purposes. Most consumer items do not off-gas above 0.10ppm.
You can buy it from a supplier for about $1,000. If I had the money, I would definitely get it in order to conduct more experiments with greater certainty of formaldehyde detection. I would get a medium size glass aquarium (to use as a controlled gas chamber) and test different fabrics for formaldehyde off-gassing. Plus, you can test formaldehyde levels in homes and apartments with greater certainty that will have a reliable official value that can be used to file complaints or whatever.
Here is a useful comparison study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) between this instrument RKI FP-31 and the one – Formaldemeter htV – that uses an electrochemical sensor. They mention the fact of interfering gases.
GAS CHROMATOGRAPHY / MASS SPECTROMETRY
Gas chromatography (GC) combined with mass spectrometry (MS) is a laboratory method for establishing ALL the exact gases that can be identified in an air sample. You should do your own research if you want to understand these measuring methods.
Gas chromatography machines start at around $10,000 and require skilled knowledge to operate. Specialized labs are not readily available to the general public, and if you find one that will actually get back to you and agree to run some tests, it can cost you several hundred dollars to over a thousand per test (in relation to measuring off-gassing from specific products).
Certain labs have industrial grade off-gas chambers combined with GC/MS measurements to identify exactly what is being off-gassed and at what rates, but, speaking from experience, good luck finding such a lab in the U.S. and get them to work with you as a private individual. It seems these kind of labs are usually meant for the industry to conduct tests, basically, away from public’s eye. If you have the money and are persistent, you may actually get somewhere. Labs in Europe seem more responsive.
Sources of Continuous Exposure to Formaldehyde
If you have FORMALDEHYDE GAS in the surrounding air such as due to off-gassing from consumer products – you have a condition of continuous exposure to formaldehyde. If you wear formaldehyde infused clothing fabrics, you have continuous exposure to formaldehyde as it will absorb into your skin and enter your lungs since it will off-gas into the air in your immediate vicinity and in front of your face. Both heat and humidity (such as sweat vapor) precipitate off-gassing.
Probably the worst kind of exposure can occur during sleep if you have a mattress that off-gasses formaldehyde, combined with formaldehyde off-gassing sheets and pillows. Add to that formaldehyde off-gassing pressed wood furniture – all combined with closed windows and air heating (like a lot of people seem to prefer) and you are on the way to experiencing chronic fatigue, tense muscles, decreased mental and physical performance, and a gradual progression toward developing allergies or “sensitivities” with an increasing risk of developing some form of cancer and/or some form of a neurodegenerative disease like the Alzheimer’s, if you manage to make it into older years.
Note, formaldehyde in fabrics is addressed in a separate section further down on this page.
23 Sources of Formaldehyde to Remove from Your Home, Starting Right Now
WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Selected Pollutants.
“Indoor sources may be combustion processes such as smoking, heating, cooking, or candle or incense burning. However, major sources in non-smoking environments appear to be building materials and consumer products that emit formaldehyde. This applies to new materials and products but can last several months, particularly in conditions with high relative humidity and high indoor temperatures.
Formaldehyde sources in indoor environments include: furniture and wooden products containing formaldehyde-based resins such as particleboard, plywood and medium-density fibreboard; insulating materials (in the early 1980s, urea formaldehyde foam insulation was a major source of indoor pollution); textiles; do-it-yourself products such as paints, wallpapers, glues, adhesives, varnishes and lacquers; household cleaning products such as detergents, disinfectants, softeners, carpet cleaners and shoe products; cosmetics such as liquid soaps, shampoos, nail varnishes and nail hardeners; electronic equipment, including computers and photocopiers; and other consumer items such as insecticides and paper products.”
Formaldehyde in Your Home: What you need to know
GLUE: Urea-Formaldehyde vs Phenol-Formaldehyde
Urea Formaldehyde Glue also known as Plastic Resin Glue
Phenol Formaldehyde Glue
UREA-FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION
Toxicology of urea formaldehyde and polyurethane foam insulation. 
Mild to incapacitating symptoms have been reported in occupants of urea formaldehyde-insulated homes. Airborne formaldehyde levels frequently have exceeded standards set for occupational exposure. The long-term consequences of such exposure are unknown.
YouTube: RetroFoam – Spray Foam Insulation – Home Insulation
PRESSED WOOD PRODUCTS
MDF vs Particle Board:
Mobile Homes and Trailers
Continuous exposure to formaldehyde causes physiological and neurological degradation. Those living in trailers and mobile homes may have been impacted to a much greater extend due to higher concentrations of formaldehyde off-gassing combined with tight space.
Formaldehyde in the Indoor Environment
3.2.1. Wood-Based Materials: In the past, there was a link between the two items “formaldehyde emission” and “wood-based products”. This negative image resulted from the high formaldehyde release from UF-bonded particle board under living conditions in the 1960s and 1970s. Dwellings in which particle board was used extensively, such as prefabricated houses and mobile homes, were particularly concerned, and many occupants complained about bad odors and adverse health effects. Subsequent emissions of formaldehyde are due to the presence of small amounts of free formaldehyde in the resin and to the reversibility of the urea−formaldehyde reaction. In Germany, the first publication dealing with this topic appeared in 1962. Formaldehyde emission from UF-bonded particle board may continue for months or even years, but the emission potential decreases with increasing age. Since 1970 formaldehyde emission rates from particle board and other wood-based materials have decreased as a consequence of governmental and voluntary guidelines and regulations. Wood-based products bonded with PF adhesives show comparatively low formaldehyde emission potentials because the cross-linking is more stable. Furthermore, environmentally friendly adhesives using natural tannin have been developed to reduce the dependence on formaldehyde-based adhesives.
7.4. Formaldehyde in Mobile Homes: Relatively high formaldehyde concentrations can be measured in mobile homes. This has already been stated by Sexton et al., who investigated 470 mobile homes manufactured between 1966 and 1984 and in 147 cases (31%) found concentrations > 0.1 ppm. Hanrahan et al. have measured formaldehyde levels up to 2.8 ppm. … Main and Hogan(305) exposed 21 test persons to formaldehyde concentrations between 0.12 ppm and 1.6 ppm in two mobile trailers. Symptoms such as eye and throat irritation, headache, and fatigue were observed. In the United States, discussion about formaldehyde in mobile homes returned to public attention when survivors of hurricane Katrina, who live in trailers provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (FEMA), complained about strange odors and adverse health effects. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) randomly selected 519 out of 120,000 trailers and mobile homes. The range of concentrations was between 3 and 590 ppb with a geometric mean of 77 ppb. In their study, CDC stated that the indoor temperature was a significant factor for formaldehyde levels irrespective of trailer make or model. Maddalena et al. studied four unoccupied FEMA temporary housing units, each produced by a different manufacturer, to assess their indoor emissions. Steady-state indoor formaldehyde concentrations ranged from 378 μg m−3 (0.31 ppm) to 632 μg m−3 (0.52 ppm) in the morning and from 433 μg m−3 (0.35 ppm) to 926 μg m−3 (0.78 ppm) in the afternoon. Air exchange rates ranged from 0.15 h−1 to 0.39 h−1. Wolkoff and Kjaergaard(309) state that formaldehyde emission from wood-based materials is proportional to relative humidity at a given temperature. This might also play a role in the hot and humid climate of the southern U.S. states.
[Wikipedia] White trash is a derogatory American English slur referring to poor white people, especially in the rural southern United States. The label signifies a social class inside the white population and especially a degraded standard of living. …
In the mid-20th century, poor whites who could not afford to buy suburban-style tract housing began to purchase mobile homes, which were not only cheaper, but which could be easily relocated if work in one location ran out. These – sometimes by choice and sometimes through local zoning laws – gathered in trailer camps, and the people who lived in them became known as “trailer trash“. Despite many of them having jobs, albeit sometimes itinerant ones, the character flaws that had been perceived in poor white trash in the past were transferred to so-called “trailer trash”, and trailer camps or parks were seen as being inhabited by retired persons, migrant workers, and, generally, the poor. By 1968, a survey found that only 13% of those who owned and lived in mobile homes had white collar jobs.
Laminate floor is a pressed wood product, but a particular product must be checked to determine formaldehyde off-gassing, if any.
The 60 Minutes story on Lumber Liquidators that led to a $36 million settlement
What to do if you suspect formaldehyde in your flooring
Standards and Regulations for Composite Wood Products
EPA: Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products
CARB Regulations (California):
What Is CARB Phase 2? Why Is It Important?
In the 2009 rollout of the CARB’s Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM), formaldehyde emissions were capped at .08 parts per million (ppm). CARB Phase 2 went into effect in 2010 and has much lower formaldehyde emissions than the previous phase; set at .05 ppm.
0.050ppm is NOT a safe level of formaldehyde off-gassing, especially when it comes to flooring. If that much formaldehyde is off-gassed from such a large surface area, especially if combined with heat, humidity and poor ventilation – such as the case in many areas of Los Angeles further away from the ocean cool and breeze – residents will be continuously exposed to health ruining concentrations of formaldehyde that can even exceed 0.050ppm since in the case of continuous off-gassing, it can progressively accumulate in standing air – the standing air that can already be polluted with other carbon based gases such as Carbon Monoxide/Dioxide from car exhaust (if someone lives near a busy road).
And of course there is also formaldehyde in…
Chemicals in car exhaust
Why Are Vehicles’ Exhaust Fumes Harmful To Humans?
Notice, formaldehyde without the hydrogen atoms is carbon monoxide – an even simpler carbon based molecule that is also polar, is also naturally produced within the human body, and also has toxic effect on the organism in a condition of environmental exposure, especially that is continuous and/or in high concentrations.
Formaldehyde is formed in large quantities in the troposphere by the oxidation of hydrocarbons (Calvert et al. 1972; WHO 1989) leading to elevated formaldehyde levels shortly after periods of high vehicular traffic (Grosjean et al. 1996).
CIGARETTE SMOKE and E-CIGARETTE VAPOR
[Formaldehyde determination in tobacco smoke–studies under experimental and actual conditions].
The Scary Facts About Formaldehyde in Cigarette Smoke
The truth about formaldehyde in e-cigarettes
original 2015 study:
Hidden Formaldehyde in E-Cigarette Aerosols
Significant amount of cancer-causing chemicals stays in lungs during e-cigarette use
E-cigarettes can emit formaldehyde at high levels under conditions that have been reported to be non-averse to users
As of the time of authoring this page (June 2019), I did not inspect any carpets. Judging from the below links, it seems like for carpet, other chemicals may be of greater concern.
Emissions of volatile organic compounds from new carpets measured in a large-scale environmental chamber.
Ask the EcoTeam: My New Carpet is Off-Gassing!
Does New Carpet Give Off Formaldehyde and Harmful Fumes?
Book-loving family in China slowly poisoned by their home library
A very extensive summary report of formaldehyde – very useful for some “data diving”
Formaldehyde in the Indoor Environment
This is worth to take a look at:
The high solubility of formaldehyde in water causes rapid absorption in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. Here, it can be oxidized to form formate and exhaled as carbon dioxide or incorporated in biological matrices. The biological half-life is extremely short at about 1 min. As an electrophile, formaldehyde can react with nucleophilic biogenic compounds in the body.
[Wikipedia] The biological half-life of a biological substance is the time it takes for half to be removed by biological processes when the rate of removal is roughly exponential. … Typically, this refers to the body’s cleansing through the function of kidneys and liver in addition to excretion functions to eliminate a substance from the body.
It is unclear what it means by 1 minute biological half-life. For a few breaths of very low concentrations? For loose formaldehyde that didn’t end up attaching itself to anything or reacting to basically form new substances? Certainly inhaling a substantial concentration of formaldehyde will, for most people, cause debilitating neurological and physiological symptoms… and they do not suddenly “evaporate” in a few minutes.
Though, a relatively short half life can explain a speedy recovery at least from more immediate symptoms once the source of formaldehyde off-gassing is removed from one’s vicinity. And even with such a short biological half-life, if someone is breathing in formaldehyde gas for hours on end, day in and day out, and especially during sleep, then there is going to be intoxication as long as there is a constant stream of formaldehyde entering the body. Therefore, it is truly a correct line of thinking for formaldehyde exposure that has been emphasized on this page – that the real danger comes from continuous exposure over extended period of time due to its interference with metabolic processes and a disruptive / damaging impact on the various molecular and cellular structures in the organism.
It appears there was also a Senate Hearing on April 28, 2009 on the subject of formaldehyde:
[Senate Hearing 111-56]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 111-56
FORMALDEHYDE IN TEXTILES AND CONSUMER PRODUCTS
5 toxics that are everywhere: Protect yourself
Formaldehyde in Fabrics
As it stands in 2019, the use of formaldehyde in textiles, within certain limits, is officially allowed – so a great majority of fabric products are treated with formaldehyde, and most likely a number of other toxic chemicals. The problem with formaldehyde is that it stays in the fabric as part of some binding agent and then off-gasses during product’s storage and use.
Formaldehyde is used to make fabrics more durable, wrinkle-resistant, shrink resistant, anti-bacterial (formaldehyde kills microorganisms), and sweat resistant (formaldehyde blocks sweating). Formaldehyde can also be used for fumigation during storage and transportation to prevent mold, lice, and other bugs and micro-organisms. Formaldehyde is used to create BINDING AGENTS – so it does not simply wash out or air out in the course of normal use, but quite insidiously it does off-gas steadily over time. It is sort of like glue – it is very hard to remove, yet it will give off a fume… for YEARS!
According to my personal investigation of typical items from conventional retailers (using an electrochemical formaldehyde detector combined with sensory recognition), most fabrics off-gas formaldehyde at a rate of around 0.050 mg/m3 which is below clearly perceptible level for most people. It is not until someone becomes “sensitized” to formaldehyde to experience a set of very perceptible reactions and/or learns about formaldehyde and how to clearly recognize its presence, that formaldehyde becomes clearly perceptible at a level of 0.050 mg/m3 or even lower.
For most unsensitized or unaware individuals, formaldehyde becomes increasingly more perceptible at a level of 0.100 mg/m3 and above – in the form of emerging sense of irritation (itching, burning, stinging) in the throat area, on the tongue, eyes, and/or the skin. Formaldehyde has acidic-like, irritating smell that is remotely similar to vinegar and becomes quite repulsive at higher concentrations, but the smell as such does not usually become clearly perceptible until there is a concentration well above 0.100 mg/m3.
At lower concentrations formaldehyde can give a sense as if one is breathing in dust with a kind of dryness in one’s mouth. It can give a perception of dry air (as formaldehyde causes dryness) or “standing air” or air that “lacks oxygen” or some kind of needed vitality. Touching fabrics infused with formaldehyde can result in a noticeable dryness of hands. As a lot of fabrics now contain formaldehyde (and evidently have been for a long time), this sense of dryness along with this specific “scent” is simply associated with “new fabric feel.” However, if one pays attention, neither the dryness nor the “dry scent” leave the fabric even after it is used and washed which then again commonly associates with “newly washed fabric feel.” Fabrics can also commonly feel “starchy” coming out of the dryer.
Formaldehyde in Textiles: Use, Limits & Testing
The 2007 New Zealand Study
Formaldehyde in clothing is indeed very alarming, but you have to watch out for possible misinformation and exaggerated figures. Numerous articles refer to a 2007 study which was conducted by a New Zealand TV show “Target” on network TV3 which supposedly found, in some randomly selected clothing items imported from China, levels of formaldehyde up to 900 times greater than is “safely” permissible by European Regulations. The program aired causing a hysteria, but later independent studies revealed that all items tested were within allowable limits. The program basically made a mistake in their measuring methods.
There is really only so much formaldehyde that can fit into fabric fibers. The amount of formaldehyde based binder is not just limited by physics and regulations – it is also limited by the PERCEPTION THRESHOLD of people that come into contact with fabrics. If the levels were truly so abnormally high, the off-gassing concentrations would be so high as to cause severe adverse reactions – such overloaded fabrics would simply never make it through the distribution chain. The amount has to stay at least slightly below the typical perception threshold so that people do not actually readily notice the chemical presence which would effectively deter them from buying the product.
Poison found in kids’ clothes from China [2009-01-31: the date of this article seems off as the program took place in 2007, but it is a good summary]
Chinese-made clothes ‘toxic’ [2007-08-20]
Chinese blankets recalled over formaldehyde [2007-08-22]
Retailers outraged after TV3 claims of excess formaldehyde prove false [2007-10-18]
Actually, hold on a second, the insistent research digging to get to the bottom of things really pays off with some breakthrough insights:
TV show Target fined over misleading info [2009-01-31]
Target sparked a national outcry and a government probe in August 2007 when it broadcast a programme which said testing had found dangerous levels of formaldehyde in children’s clothing, with some test showing levels up to 900 times the safe limit.
However, it later emerged Target used the wrong test – testing clothing for total formaldehyde content rather than for unbound “free” formaldehyde – the amount of the chemical that easily comes loose from the garment and is potentially dangerous.
Target used the results from the total formaldehyde tests and compared them against standards for free formaldehyde.
Well, THAT answers the question I’ve been having as to what these regulation setting, government agencies are actually testing and citing in their reports. It appears they just test the maximum amount of formaldehyde that off-gasses at the time when they are testing a given item, but what about continuous off-gassing throughout the product’s life cycle as the item is being used, continually disturbing molecular binding and causing off-gassing into perpetuity? Hey, at least it is admitted that formaldehyde is present in fabrics. It only takes a few days of detailed research on the Internet to eventually get to the bottom of it 🙂 [This is me being sarcastic at the fact that consumers are not being informed that they are being constantly exposed to formaldehyde embedded in clothing and other textiles, nor they are being informed of the extended dangers that continuous exposure to formaldehyde can cause – not just cancer, but also neurological debilitation.]
Official Reports, Standards and Regulations
Here is a report produced in 2010 by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to the Congressional Committees – probably following the hysteria produced by the New Zealand study.
FORMALDEHYDE IN TEXTILES
The intention to calm the fears at the outset is quite apparent:
Comprehensive data on formaldehyde levels in clothing sold in the United States are not publicly available. While formaldehyde levels in clothing are not regulated in the United States, the apparel industry reports that 13 countries have laws or regulations that limit formaldehyde levels in clothing. Most of the 180 items GAO had tested had formaldehyde levels that were below the most stringent of these industry-identified regulatory limits. GAO’s test results are similar to those of recent studies of formaldehyde levels in clothing by the European Union, New Zealand, and Australia—that is, most items were found to meet the most stringent limits.
Useful key information from the report:
Formaldehyde-containing resins have been used in clothing and other textiles since the mid-1920s primarily to impart durable press characteristics to fabrics made from natural fibers, especially plant-based fibers such as cotton. These resins may also provide other easy-care benefits, such as shrink resistance and color fastness. The use of these resins in cotton clothing and other textiles became more prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s to compete with the increased use of synthetic fabrics, which often provided durable press characteristics. Under certain conditions, formaldehyde-containing resins may chemically degrade and release (off gas) free formaldehyde, including when exposed to high temperature and humidity. The level of formaldehyde in clothing identified by testing and the level of formaldehyde that may be emitted by that clothing into the air will vary under different conditions—especially heat and humidity—and the test method used. Formaldehyde release mechanisms are numerous and complex, and emissions of formaldehyde from fabrics are much lower than the levels found in the fabrics by testing. Several analytical tests may be used to identify the levels of formaldehyde in clothing and other textiles. Test results are generally expressed as micrograms of formaldehyde per gram of fabric—typically either as microgram per gram or as parts per million.
The two analytical tests now commonly used in the textile industry to identify levels of formaldehyde in clothing and textiles are the Japanese Industrial Standard L 1041 test, also known as the Japanese Law 112 test (Japanese test), and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists 112 test (AATCC test). The Japanese test was developed to measure the amount of formaldehyde that may be released by clothing and other textiles that may come into contact with the skin, and the AATCC test was developed to measure the amount of formaldehyde that may be released from clothing and other textiles during extended storage or hot and humid conditions. Because of different testing specifications, as well as variables related to the particular formaldehyde resins used, formaldehyde levels measured by the two tests are not comparable, and the results from the Japanese test cannot be used to predict what the results would be under the AATCC test and vice versa.
The American Apparel and Footwear Association has identified the most stringent regulatory limits for formaldehyde in clothing and home textiles in other countries for its members that may wish to sell their products internationally.16 The most stringent formaldehyde limits identified use the Japanese (or equivalent) test as a basis for measurement and are
• not detectable (defined as less than 20 parts per million) for products intended for children younger than 3 years of age,
• less than 75 parts per million for products that come into direct contact with the skin for children who are 3 years of age and older and for adults, and
• less than 300 parts per million for products that do not come into direct contact with the skin—e.g., outerwear—for children who are 3 years of age and older and for adults.
Some countries do not limit formaldehyde levels in clothing but require disclosure in labels if formaldehyde levels exceed specified amounts.
In the mid-1980s, most of the clothing sold in the United States was also manufactured in the United States and its territories. However, imports of clothing and other textiles from other countries now make up a majority of U.S. sales. Although textile industries are dispersed throughout the world, China is now the world’s largest producer and exporter of clothing and textiles. Much of China’s growth occurred during the 10-year phaseout of textile quotas under the 1995 World Trade Organization Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, which was completed on January 1, 2005. As of 2008, China accounted for the largest share of total U.S. clothing imports—34.3 percent, an increase from 6.5 percent in 1999. Vietnam and Bangladesh rank second and third at 6.7 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively.
If you read the report, you will see that out of 180 items they tested, they found 10 that exceeded the regulated limits by The American Apparel and Footwear Association listed above with measured values, using the Japanese test, from around 75 to around 200ppm.
How these regulatory and measured ppm values using the “Japanese Test” translate into the amount of continuous off-gassing released into the air during regular use of closet storage and wear is quite unclear. The test I would love to see is clothing items hung up in an off-gassing chamber and subjected to light heat, occasional vapor and some disturbance to simulate wear conditions and then measure how much formaldehyde gas (and other chemicals) are coming off of these products into the air in understandable mg/m3 measurement – when brand new, after one wash, after 5 washes, and after 10 washes. That would give a pretty good idea of how much formaldehyde gas is introduced into the air during normal use and whether there is a substantial reduction in formaldehyde off-gassing after wash cycles. The tests for things like pillows and curtains could obviously be simpler.
STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® limits for formaldehyde basically mirror the limits of 20/75/300ppm already stated above. This is consistent with what I found – that fabrics carrying this certification seem no different in terms of formaldehyde sense and measurement than regular items without this certification. As it currently stands, this certification on a clothing label is nothing more than a marketing gimmick since most retailers and manufacturers are already complying with established regulations.
They have actually an ALLOWABLE OFF-GASSING LIMIT for non-clothing items of 0.100 mg/m3, for babies including, “For textile carpets, mattresses as well as foams and large coated articles not being used for clothing.”
This is consistent with my measurements that most items do not exceed the value of 0.100 mg/m3 for off-gassing even though some closely approach it.
So the conclusion is that, as of 2019, formaldehyde in textiles is KNOWINGLY ALLOWED within the value of 0.100 mg/m3 for off-gassing which happens to be the PERCEPTION THRESHOLD for the unsensitized public. That really explains to me the eye-opening discovery that literally everything is drenched in formaldehyde – as I went from one store to another to look for fabric products without formaldehyde and couldn’t find any.
They even have an allowable limit for TOLUENE which is an admitted neurotoxin:
Public Health Statement for Toluene
When you breathe toluene, it is taken directly into your blood from your lungs. Similarly, when you touch products containing toluene (e.g., nail polish remover) or bathe in water containing toluene, toluene can pass through your skin into your bloodstream. … After being taken into your body, the majority of toluene is removed from your body within a day; however, a small amount may accumulate in fat tissue with daily exposure. Toluene may leave your body unchanged in the air you breathe out or in your urine after some of it has been changed to other chemicals. Generally, your body turns toluene into less harmful chemicals such as hippuric acid.
A serious health concern is that toluene may have an effect on your nervous system (brain and nerves). Nervous system effects can be temporary, such as headaches, dizziness, or unconsciousness. However, effects such as incoordination, cognitive impairment, and vision and hearing loss may become permanent with repeated exposure, especially at concentrations associated with intentional solvent abuse. … Single exposures to toluene or repeated exposures over a few weeks can cause headaches and sleepiness, and can impair your ability to think clearly. Whether or not toluene does this to you depends on the amount you take in, how long you are exposed, and your genetic susceptibility and age.
Why is toluene neurotoxic?
Bill Skaggs, Ph.D. in Neuroscience
Answered Jul 14, 2014 · Author has 853 answers and 1.1m answer views
Long-term exposure to toluene causes a syndrome called “toxic leukoencephalopathy”, in which the main problem is damage to the white matter of the brain. The white matter is made up of nerve fibers coated with a fatty substance called myelin. The function of myelin is to speed conduction of signals along the nerve fibers. Pathological studies have shown that long-term exposure to toluene causes accumulating damage to the myelin; however, the mechanism of that damage has not yet been determined. It might be a simple chemical interaction — myelin is a fatty substance, and solvents such as toluene are very good at dissolving fats.
The world that we live in…
Formaldehyde in your fabrics [2011-01-04]
Toxic Formaldehyde Hides In Children’s Clothing and Bedding [2008 article]
Formaldehyde in Clothing Linked to Dermatitis and Cancer [2018-03-07]
Toxic dyes, lethal logos, cotton drenched in formaldehyde… How your clothes could poison you [2012-01-19]
Is There a Toxic Secret in Victoria’s Secret Bras? [2008-12-02]
Is formaldehyde Victoria’s biggest Secret? [2014-10-24]
Five years later and our breasts are still angry as hell [2018-04-21]
L Brands is a parent company of Victoria’s Secret and of course they claim they don’t add any formaldehyde in their bras:
More Information About Formaldehyde
From my experience, the chemical scent on some of these female lingerie products and other female clothing items (like cotton dresses) in some stores is quite noticeable – often even more so than on men’s clothing. Some stores are so bad that you can already sense a chemical scent in the ambient air when just approaching the store.
Actual measurements at a Victoria’s Secret shop that I visited were impossible to take because the entire store was infused with perfume, and perfume commonly contains formaldehyde – so it would be kind of pointless to measure something under such conditions. But in light of the chemical scent that I could pick up, there definitely seems to be some kind of disconnect between the official statements and reality. It may very well be some other chemical(s) and not specifically formaldehyde. The issue can be easily settled with laboratory gas chromatography/mass spectrometry off-gassing tests.
In only one department store, I also inspected some baby clothing and the chemical scent was undeniable – much more so than on (non wrinkle-free) cotton fabrics in an average men’s department. According to guidelines, baby clothing is supposed to contain much less or be completely free from formaldehyde – I did not find that to be the case, but I only looked at one store so far.
The whole issue of chemicals in clothing is quite shocking and overwhelming, once you become aware of it. More specific tests, preferably using gas chromatography, are needed in order to establish what exactly is being off-gassed from many of the fabric products.
Getting formaldehyde out of clothing:
More experimentation is needed, but soaking or washing fabrics in milk powder, baking soda, vinegar, or even ammonia – do NOT get rid of formaldehyde from fabric. They may help to remove formaldehyde that is already unstable and on the way to off-gassing, but not the one that is still firmly bound into the fabric and may – will – off-gas in the future. A method or a reactive agent that would dissolve that kind of glue-like bonding would most likely also dissolve fabric dies and potentially damage the fabric itself.
One of the most recommended methods for “removing formaldehyde” that can be found on the Internet is soaking and then rinsing the fabric in cold water with powdered milk. Milk contains protein. Formaldehyde likes to stick to protein molecules. So milk can be effective at attracting and trapping loose formaldehyde molecules, but for breaking down strong bonds – there needs to be something more powerful.
Formaldehyde and non-fat dry milk in the laundry? YES!
How to Remove Formaldehyde From Clothing
Laundry Decontamination Protocols
This OdorKlenz laundry additive claims to remove formaldehyde as well as any odors in general. It is worth a try, but it probably works on the same level as powdered milk in terms of formaldehyde “removal.” You can find it on Amazon in both powder and liquid forms.
The Chemical Industry makes efforts to suppress information
Scientific studies establish a link between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia:
Formaldehyde and Leukemia: Epidemiology, Potential Mechanisms and Implications for Risk Assessment
Updated results of two of the three largest industrial cohort studies of formaldehyde-exposed workers have shown positive associations with leukemia, particularly myeloid leukemia, and a recent meta-analysis of studies to date supports this association.
A very detailed report by
International Agency for Research on Cancer (World Health Organization)
A few articles appear geared more toward the general audience:
Formaldehyde and leukemia: What research reveals about the risks
Does formaldehyde cause leukemia? A delayed EPA report may hold the answer
Chemical Industry lobby pressures EPA to basically suppress release of the findings to the American public:
Industry Pressure Delays Release of Formaldehyde-Leukemia Study
In their investigation, Reuters found that members of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the chemical industry’s main lobbying group, met with representatives from the EPA’s Office of Research and Development to pressure the agency into obscuring the connections between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia.
Pressured by industry, U.S. EPA slows formaldehyde study release: documents
“By sweeping scientific assessments under the rug, EPA fails to fulfill its mission of protecting public health. The public has the right to know about public health threats,” said Yogin Kothari, UCS Washington director.
Note, there was also an earlier article from REUTERS in 2009:
Formaldehyde raises risk of deadly cancers: study
Sources: EPA blocks warnings on cancer-causing chemical [detailed report]
– related video
The Chemical Industry (American Chemistry Council) finds an “expert” to invalidate the findings and spreads disinformation instead:
Research Shows No Link Between Formaldehyde and Leukemia
“The findings from this analysis do not support a finding that formaldehyde exposure is a cause of leukemia,” said Harvey Checkoway, Ph.D., lead author of the reanalysis and Professor of Family Medicine & Public Health at the University of California, San Diego.