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Published on Aug 24, 2016
Exposure to elevated levels of formaldehyde is an important public health issue. Following Hurricane Katrina, when displaced people were temporarily housed in new trailers and mobile homes supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), concerns over exposure to formaldehyde off-gassing from building materials, furnishings and fabrics in these temporary homes gained national attention.
In response, FEMA and other government agencies released a flyer entitled “What You Should Know about Formaldehyde in Mobile Homes.” The following are excerpts from that document:
Exposure to formaldehyde can make you feel sick if you breathe a lot of it. People can have symptoms such as sore throat, cough, scratchy eyes and nosebleeds. Some people are more sensitive than others, so an exposure that causes no problems for some people can make other people sick or uncomfortable.
Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer. The cancer of greatest concern is cancer of the nose and throat. Scientific research has not yet shown that a certain level of formaldehyde exposure causes cancer. However, the higher the level and the longer the exposure, the greater the chance of getting cancer. Exposure to formaldehyde might increase the chance of getting cancer even at levels too low to cause symptoms.
To protect yourself from formaldehyde exposure: • Open windows as much as possible to let in fresh air. • Try to keep the temperature inside mobile homes at the lowest comfortable setting. • Spend as much time outdoors in fresh air as possible. This is especially important for families with children, elderly people or those with chronic diseases such as asthma.
While not mentioned in the FEMA document, formaldehyde air testing services are commercially available to those who live permanently or temporarily in mobile homes, recreational vehicles or travel trailers.
These are just a few things to know about formaldehyde and indoor environmental quality concerns. To learn more about this or other indoor air quality, environmental, occupational or health and safety issues, please visit the websites shown below.