Formaldehyde is a VOC (volatile organic chemical), meaning that it becomes a gas at room temperature and can cause problems when inhaled. Formaldehyde, commonly found in homes, smog, car exhaust, and tobacco smoke, is an eye, nose, throat, and lung irritant that can cause difficulty breathing, exacerbate asthma, and has been linked to cancer. It is used in the resins and veneers that coat particle board, plywood, carpets, insulation, wooden furniture, and other items. Thus, most people are exposed to higher levels of formaldehyde when indoors, especially in newer homes. Proper ventilation and low levels of humidity help to lower formaldehyde concentrations.
Formaldehyde gained attention when Hurricane Katrina victims experienced breathing problems and irritation from formaldehyde that had leeched from the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailers provided by the government as temporary homes.
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