Formaldehyde in Furniture

brain building materials cancer eyes furniture headaches indoor air interior design nausea nose textiles Mar 12, 2018

by Angela Cummings and Sophia Ruan Gushée


When buying furniture the first consideration is usually about the look and feel of the furniture. Not about how it may be affecting health.

Furniture and other home furnishings often contain formaldehyde. In this article you will find:

  • What is formaldehyde?
  • Household items containing formaldehyde.
  • Short-term effects of formaldehyde exposure.
  • Can formaldehyde cause cancer?
  • How to avoid formaldehyde exposure at home.
  • Find more information about formaldehyde.

What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colorless flammable gas. (1) It off-gases at room temperature and falls into a category of chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

Formaldehyde can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin.

Household items containing formaldehyde.

Commonly found in flooring, carpets, glues, adhesives, furniture, cleaners, paints, finishes, insulation, composite wood products (plywood, particleboard, fiberboard), cabinets, drapes, textiles, furniture, and so many more products, formaldehyde is used as a preservative, fungicide, germicide, and disinfectant. (2)

Formaldehyde in furniture side effects can be short- and long-term.

Short-term effects of formaldehyde exposure.

Formaldehyde can cause short-term health effects—such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, headaches, dizziness, nausea (3), and nosebleeds. (4)

Can formaldehyde cause cancer?

Formaldehyde is considered a “known” or “probable” human carcinogen by the following organizations (5):

  • National Toxicology Program (comprised of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration)
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Cancer Institute

How to avoid formaldehyde exposure at home.

Choose formaldehyde-free products—such as ceramic tile or solid hardwood flooring, paints, and finishes that are zero- or low-VOC, solid wood furniture, formaldehyde-free or solid hardwood cabinets, all-natural cleaners, and drapes without “permanent press”, “easy care” or other specialty finishes.

Ask manufacturers or retailers for products labeled as “formaldehyde-free.”

If you choose to purchase products that contain formaldehyde, even in small amounts, ventilate the area where the item is located. Lowering the temperature and humidity level in the home could reduce the off-gassing of formaldehyde; however, it will not prevent it.

Find more information about formaldehyde.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Attention: Formaldehyde
Mail Code: 7404T
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
111 T.W. Alexander Drive
Durham, N.C. 27709

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
4770 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30341 USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636), TTY: 888-232-6348

When choosing furniture, drapery, flooring, or other home furnishing and building materials, consider the look, feel, and how it may be affecting health. Given the short- and long-term health effects of formaldehyde, opt for products that are formaldehyde-free. In times where formaldehyde-free is not an option, be sure to ventilate the area and keep temperatures and humidity low.



(1) U.S. EPA


(3) Minnesota Dept. of Health

(4) Center for Disease Control


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Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

In no event will Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living be liable for any damages or loss of any kind resulting from the use of this website. Anyone relying upon or making use of the information on this website does so at his or her own risk.

Some of the services and products recommended on this website provide compensation to Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living. All recommendations are based foremost upon an honest belief that the product, service, or site will benefit our site visitors in some way.  

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