This fact sheet is part of a series of chemical fact sheets developed by TURI to help Massachusetts companies, community organizations and residents understand the chemical’s use and health and environmental effects, as well as the availability of safer alternatives.
A simple and versatile substance, many products are made from or contain formaldehyde, including resins and adhesives, permanent press fabric treatments, tissue preservatives, lawn fertilizers, cosmetics and disinfectants. Formaldehyde has been linked to cancer in humans and may cause adverse reproductive outcomes.
Off-gassed from construction products and released by manufacturing facilities and combustion sources, formaldehyde is almost ubiquitous at low levels in both indoor and outdoor air. It is often targeted as a cause of health complaints associated with “sick building syndrome,” such as respiratory irritation and headaches.
In 2010, Massachusetts companies used more than 2.5 million pounds of formaldehyde.