Formaldehyde is normally present in indoor and outdoor air at low levels. Materials containing formaldehyde can release formaldehyde gas or vapour into the air. Certain workers may also be exposed to formaldehyde.
Indoor and outdoor exposure
There are many products that contain formaldehyde, which can release formaldehyde gas into the air. Formaldehyde is:
- used in building and construction materials
- found in furniture and cabinets made from pressed-wood products (such as particleboard, plywood, medium-density fibreboard) and glues and adhesives used to make these products
- used in household products such as certain paints, varnishes and floor finishes
- found in permanent press sheets, drapes and clothing
- a by-product from burning certain substances
- cigarette smoke
- unvented fuel-burning appliances such as gas or wood-burning stoves and kerosene heaters
- forest fires and vehicle exhaust
Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) was used in Canadian homes many years ago. Few homes are now insulated with UFFI. Homes that had UFFI installed many years ago probably do not have high formaldehyde levels now.
Some industries may expose workers to formaldehyde:
- certain textile manufacturing
- wood product manufacturing
- plastic and resin production
- funeral industry, medical and other healthcare services
- Formaldehyde is used as a preservative and embalming agent.
- fungicide spraying
- Formaldehyde is commonly used as an industrial fungicide (to control diseases caused by moulds) and as a disinfectant (to destroy microorganisms).