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What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature. It has a pungent, distinct odor and may cause a burning sensation to the eyes, nose, and lungs at high concentrations. Formaldehyde is also known as methanal, methylene oxide, oxymethylene, methylaldehyde, and oxomethane. Formaldehyde can react with many other chemicals, and it will break down into methanol (wood alcohol) and carbon monoxide at very high temperatures.(1)

What products contain Formaldehyde

Hold on to your seats, because when I found out what I HAD to avoid to keep this chemical out of my life, my jaw almost hit the floor.

You most likely know this product as embalming fluid used by funeral homes, but the list of products that either contain this chemical or is used in processing a product is HUGE and includes:

  • building materials such as, particleboard, plywood, fiberboard.
  • glues/adhesives,
  • permanent-press fabrics and blended fabrics,
  • Lotions
  • Shampoos
  • Sunblock
  • Soap Bars
  • Cosmetics
  • Body Wash
  • Toothpaste
  • Baby Wipes
  • Bubble Bath
  • paper product coatings;
  • some insulation materials,
  • fungicide,
  • germicide, and
  • disinfectant,
  • preservative in mortuaries and medical laboratories,
  • make-up,
  • lotions,
  • soaps,
  • cleaning products,
  • health-care products,
  • some OTC medicines such as an antiperspirant to treat feet that sweat or smell excessively.
  • used as a drying agent during wart treatment.

Even automobile tailpipe, cigarette smoke and the use of unvented fuel-burning appliances, such as gas stoves, wood-burning stoves, and kerosene heaters give off this chemical.

Formaldehyde also occurs naturally in the environment. It is produced in small amounts by most living organisms as part of normal metabolic processes.


One of the top 5 surprising products that contain Formaldehyde is nail polish.  The other 4 are hair products, kids dishware, bedding, and air fresheners.

How do you know what you have is caused by chemicals, such as formaldehyde?

I am seeing more and more people with skin disorders and they don’t understand what is causing it.  First, overexposure to chemicals, including formaldehyde, is thought to cause some immune disorders, rashes, psoriasis, and other skin and non-skin ailments. So if you have a persistent skin condition, see your dermatologist and have a patch test done.

The patch test will test for the following:

There is a standard set of the most common substances which cause allergic contact dermatitis. These include:

  • Balsam of Peru
  • Benzocaine
  • Chrome
  • Clioquinol
  • Cobalt
  • Epoxy resin
  • Ethylenediamine
  • Formaldehyde
  • Fragrances
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Neomycin
  • Nickel
  • Paraben mix
  • Paraphenylenediamine
  • Plants
  • P-tert butylphenol
  • Formaldehyde resin
  • Quaternium-15
  • Rosin
  • Rubber accelerators
  • Wool alcohols (lanolin) 

Some things on the list may not be recognisable, because many of these additives to ointments, clothes, leathers, and other everyday products.

If your dermatologist suspects other allergens are involved, other patches may be added to the testing process.

The Overwhelming Fact About Formaldehyde

Chemicals in our world are overwhelming and most chemicals contain Formaldehyde as a preservative for the chemical or product. For instance, chemicals used in bug spray will contain formaldehyde. Did you have your home tented? Was it done by a pro like Orkin or Blackdiamond or by a small time business bug man.  You’ve heard of backyard mechanics, well just about every profession, including the bug extermination business has them.  I learned the hard way not to use the small time (cheaper way to go) bug man. Chemical smells from bug spray should never last more than three days and two nights, and that’s if you fumigate the whole house (tent it). When I had my house treated for termites, the smell lasted months. I don’t know how much this guy used, but I am almost certain this is part of why my immune system crashed. Several things went on that weekend that could have contributed, but considering the concentration of the chemicals, I’m sure it started the roller coaster ride to my immune disorder.

Formaldehyde has several side effects:

  • Skin redness or irritation (some persistent), 
  • rash;
  • hives;
  • difficulty breathing;
  • tightness in the chest;
  • swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue
  • Cancer 
    • In 1980, laboratory studies showed that exposure to formaldehyde could cause nasal cancer in rats.
    • In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure (I’m not too sure, but I would say if chemicals used to kill bugs last months instead of a few days, I’m guessing that is long term exposure.)
    • In 2011, the National Toxicology Program, an interagency program of the Department of Health and Human Services, named formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.
  • Skin lightening or hardening
  • severe dizziness

There may be other side effects that I have not discovered yet. If you know of anything that is missing in these lists concerning formaldehyde, please feel free to place a comment.

Good luck to those who are sensitive to this chemical.

Formaldehyde Hidden in other chemicals

So if formaldehyde is sometimes mixed with other chemicals, how do we tell a product has this in it?

Here is a list of chemicals that are used in everyday products.  If you find this listed on a product, avoid that product:

  • Formalin
  • Methanal
  • Oxymethyline
  • Urea
  • 1,3-Dioxetane
  • Quaternium 15
  • Methylaldehyde
  • Methylene Oxide
  • Formic Aldehyde
  • Oxomethane Formalin
  • Phenol Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde as chemical name fragment(s)

(list may be incomplete)




Sources: (1) USDHH –



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