Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Reduce Your Exposure

What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a common chemical in our environment. Sources of formaldehyde in the environment may include:

  • Household sources, such as fiberglass, carpets, permanent press fabrics, paper products, and some household cleaners,
  • Manufactured wood products used in new mobile homes,
  • Cigarettes and other tobacco products, gas cookers, and open fireplaces,
  • Smog

Exposure to low levels of formaldehyde may cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. It is possible that people with asthma may be more sensitive to the effects of inhaled formaldehyde.

Top of Page

What happens when someone breathes too much formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde can make you feel sick if you breathe a lot of it. People can have symptoms such as:

  • sore throat
  • cough
  • scratchy eyes
  • nosebleeds

Scientists use the words “exposed” or “exposure” to talk about how people come in contact with a substance, such as formaldehyde. Some people are more sensitive than others, so an exposure that causes no problems for some people can make other people sick or uncomfortable. Some of these symptoms also happen with other upper respiratory illnesses, such as colds/flu and seasonal allergies, so if you have these symptoms we recommend that you see a doctor or another medical professional.

In general −

  • If you are more sensitive to formaldehyde and are exposed to more of it for a longer time, you are more likely to have symptoms.
  • If you are exposed to less formaldehyde for a shorter time, you are less likely to have symptoms, especially if you are not sensitive to formaldehyde.

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.

Top of Page

How can I improve the air quality in my mobile home?

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.
  • Run the air conditioner or dehumidifier to control mold.
  • Also, 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.

To control mold:

  • Fix water leaks to help keep mold away.
  • Clean away any mold you see or smell detergent and water.

In addition:

  • Be sure to bring in fresh air when you use cleaning products and insecticides. To do this, open windows or run the air conditioner. Be sure the air conditioner is bringing in air from outside.
  • Do not smoke, and especially do not smoke indoors.
  • If you smell gas, do not light any flames or sparks and leave the trailer right away.
  • If you have health concerns, see a doctor or another medical professional.

Top of Page

Where can I find help?

People living in FEMA-Provided Travel Trailers who are concerned about the level of formaldehyde in their trailers and the possible health risks of contact with formaldehyde should seek appropriate assistance.

  • For concerns about conditions in your trailer, contact FEMA at 1-866-562-2381 (TTY 1-800-462-7585).
  • For concerns about medical problems that you think may be related to the trailer, talk to a doctor or other medical professional.

Top of Page

 
 
Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    (800-232-4636)
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
    Contact CDC-INFO
  • Page last reviewed: December 22, 2009
  • Page last updated: December 22, 2009
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC-INFO