Eco-Chic - Formaldehyde, What is it?


Hello Everyone!  Eco-Chic Jo Alcorn of Whitewash  & Co is back with another great topic.  Formaldehyde, we heard it's bad, but what is it and where is it?

We have all heard through the grape vine about the deadly chemical Formaldehyde and how we should stay clear of it. But does anyone really know why or what is it?


I turned to good old Wikipedia to get a clear definition of the silent killer, “Formaldehyde is an organic compound with the formula CH2O. It is the simplest aldehyde, hence its systematic name methanal.” Methanal like the volatile flammable liquid alcohol? Now why would that be needed in fabrics for our sofa’s, clothing or bedding?

“Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent odor. It is an important precursor to many other chemical compounds, especially for polymers. In 2005, annual world production of formaldehyde was estimated to be 23 million tones (50 billion pounds).[4] Commercial solutions of formaldehyde in water, commonly called formalin, were formerly used as disinfectants and for preservation of biological specimens.”

Hence why they use it to embalm humans now that should say something right there a chemical that keeps us intact longer then Mother Nature would like us to be? 

“Formaldehyde is more complicated than many simple carbon compounds because it adopts different forms. Formaldehyde is a gas at room temperature, but the gas readily converts to a variety of derivatives, which are often used in industry in place of the gas.”

Awe, so peaceful and clean or is it?

Fun fact that I learned Formaldehyde had been detected in outer space.

“Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance in the environment made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Natural processes in the upper atmosphere may contribute up to 90 percent of the total formaldehyde in the environment. Formaldehyde is an intermediate in the oxidation (or combustion) of methane as well as other carbon compounds, e.g. forest fires, in automobile exhaust, and in tobacco smoke. When produced in the atmosphere by the action of sunlight and oxygen on atmospheric methane and other hydrocarbons, it becomes part of smog.”

So apparently Formaldehyde does not accumulate in the environment for long because the sunlight and bacteria in our soil and water breaks it down. Also our bodies quickly break down formaldehyde which converted into formic acid in the body. So why is everyone so afraid of this chemical if it breaks down in a couple of hours?

Because even a small amount of this gas chemical can cause serious health problems, that will be with them for the rest of their lives.  Such symptoms can be as simple as a runny nose, sore throat, cough, dermatitis, sleeping difficulties, headache, fatigue, breathing difficulties, sinus irritation, chest pain, frequent nausea, and decreased lung capacity. Hum, the whole world suffers from all or some of those symptoms. Could Formaldehyde be the main cause or link to all our health problems that we deal with today, since it weakens our immune systems and leaves aseptic to decease? Other health problems are abdominal pain, anxiety, coma, convulsions, diarrhea, and respiratory problems such as bronchitis, pneumonia or pulmonary edema.

 I have a headache now, am I breathing in Formaldehyde sitting at my desk? You can find this killer chemical in, cosmetics products such as foundations and powders, blush, mascaras, eye shadows, eyeliners and pencils. Durable press (wrinkle-resistant) fabrics, textiles, cleaning products, waxes, glues, polishes, paints, rugs and wallpaper. Tobacco and cigarette smoke, skin care products such as creams, lotions and moisturizers, personal hygiene items such as soaps, cleansers, and shampoos. It is also in building materials, particle board, cabinets, insulations, plastics material that found in our computers.

Formaldehyde is literally everywhere you turn. So how can we protect ourselves from something which has taken over our atmosphere?

First, the chemical is less concentrated outside so make sure to have good air circulation, open windows, and use fans. Temperature plays a role in when this deadly stalker will attack, so moderate your temperature and beware of the humidity levels. Second, try to buy and find products that do not have formaldehyde in it by reading the labels and asking questions.

This is a war that we have entered without knowing, but knowledge is the key in winning this battle. So spread the word and start to be aware of the products you buy and the health affects you feel after bringing certain products into your home.

Be safe with your purchases my friends.

Until next time,
Eco Jo 

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