What is it and where is it found?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that is used in building materials and to produce many household products. It is used in pressedwood products, such as particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard; glues and adhesives; permanent-press fabrics; paper product coatings; and certain insulation materials. In addition, formaldehyde is commonly used as a fungicide, germicide, disinfectant and medical preservative.

Pressed-wood products containing formaldehyde resins are often a significant source of formaldehyde in homes. Other potential indoor sources of formaldehyde include cigarette smoke and the use of unvented fuel-burning appliances, such as gas stoves, wood-burning stoves, and kerosene heaters.

Formaldehyde occurs naturally in the environment. Most living organisms produce formaldehyde as a by-product of normal metabolic functions.

Formaldehyde is normally present in both indoor and outdoor air at low levels, usually less than 0.03 ppm. One source of formaldehyde exposure in the air is automobile tailpipe emissions.

How harmful is it and what are the effects?

While individuals differ in their sensitivity to formaldehyde in the environment, at levels exceeding 0.1 ppm some will experience watering eyes, burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, nausea and skin irritation. Others may experience nothing at all.

Though long term effects are not well known, formaldehyde is considered a probable carcinogenic compound.

Where can it occur in e-cigarettes?

Compared with cigarettes, e-cigarettes have at the very most 15% of the formaldehyde level.[1] Comments of a recent study indicated that the measured level of formaldehyde in exhaled e-cigarette vapor was so low that it could not be distinguished from the normal off-gassing typical of human organic functions.[2]

Note: most of the information above is taken from the National Cancer Institute.[3]

Exposure Guidelines

OSHA sets a permissible 8 hour exposure at .75 ppm.[4] Other sources have suggested chronic exposure limits as high as 8 ppm as reasonable.[5] Readings of indoor air have ranged from .1 to 3.68 ppm.[6]

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