Formaldehyde in Furniture Products

Why am I being warned about potential exposure to formaldehyde in furniture products?

  • Formaldehyde (gas) is on the Proposition 65 list because it can cause cancer.
  • Exposure to formaldehyde can cause leukemia and cancers of the nose, throat, and sinuses.
  • Proposition 65 requires businesses to determine if they must provide a warning about exposures to listed chemicals.

What is formaldehyde?

  • Formaldehyde is a colorless and flammable gas with a strong smell.  It is released into the air from some furniture products.
    • Formaldehyde is used in making resins such as urea-formaldehyde that are used in adhesives for some composite wood products (particle board, fiberboard, and plywood) used to manufacture furniture
    • Formaldehyde is found in some paints, lacquers, and coatings used to manufacture wood furniture.

How does exposure to formaldehyde (gas) from furniture products occur?

  • Exposure occurs by breathing air that contains formaldehyde.
    • Formaldehyde is released into the air from furniture products made with formaldehyde‑containing resins, paints, lacquers, and other coatings.
Formaldehyde releases from products, combustion sources and tobacco smoke to air
Humans breathe contaminated air

How can I reduce my exposure to formaldehyde (gas) from furniture products?

Remove or reduce existing sources of formaldehyde and avoid adding new sources.

  • Choose:
    • Formaldehyde-free furniture, such as solid wood and stainless steel.
    • Furniture with lower formaldehyde gas-emission labels. These can include:
      • “Exterior grade” pressed wood.
      • California Air Resources Board (CARB) Phase 2 criteria.
      • Ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde (ULEF).
      • No-added formaldehyde (NAF).
  • Avoid furniture made with urea-formaldehyde resins that does not carry a California Air Resources Board (CARB) Phase 2 compliant label.
  • Air out new furniture made from composite wood products containing formaldehyde, preferably away from the home and in a well-ventilated area. The area must have fresh air passing through it, or formaldehyde will not be removed.
    • Consider asking the manufacturer or store to leave the furniture unsealed in the warehouse for a few days before delivery. 
  • If furniture made from composite wood containing formaldehyde is the only available option, consider looking for used items, because release of formaldehyde gas from composite wood decreases over time.
  • Apply a surface barrier (for example, latex-based paints or formaldehyde-free varnishes) onto formaldehyde-containing furniture.
  • Assure adequate ventilation and open windows and doors regularly to bring in outdoor air.
  • Maintain low humidity and temperatures. More formaldehyde is released when it is hot and damp.

For more information:

General Formaldehyde Fact Sheets and Resources:

Formaldehyde in Products:

Proposition 65:

  • California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA)
    Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)
Posted April 2016

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