7 Household Products That May Contain Formaldehyde & How To Avoid Them

Ashley Batz/Bustle

If you think formaldehyde isn't something you have to worry about unless you work in a lab, this may not be the case. A recent report from POLITICO alleges that the Trump administration suppressed the release of an Environmental Protection Agency study warning "that most Americans inhale enough formaldehyde vapor in the course of daily life to put them at risk of developing leukemia and other ailments." This vapor often comes from household products that contain formaldehyde, and overexposure to this carcinogen could have a negative impact on your health.

Formaldehyde is hiding in many places you might not suspect. For example, if you live in a recently constructed building, you own synthetic furniture, love to wear those wrinkle-free clothes, or you get hair-straightening treatments, you're being exposed to formaldehyde. According to the National Cancer Institute, formaldehyde is present in particleboard, plywood, fiberboard, glues and adhesives, wrinkle-resistant fabrics, paper product coatings, and certain insulation materials.

The news that consumers may not have all the information they need about formaldehyde to make informed choices about what they purchase means that you need to be your own advocate in order to minimize your exposure to potentially carcinogenic chemicals. If you want to check to see if you're currently using products on your body or in your home that contain formaldehyde, you can find a list of some common household items, including cleaning, bath, and pet products, on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. Additionally, here's some other items you might not know aren't formaldehyde-free.

1. Laundry & Dish Detergent

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Even if you're careful to make sure your clothing, bedding, and towels are formaldehyde free, some clothing detergents contain formaldehyde, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The same goes for dish detergents. If you want to be sure you're not washing your clothes or dishes in harmful chemicals, opt for an organic brand or make your own. You can also check your clothing detergent against this list of harmful chemicals on the website Force of Nature.

2. Bath Soap & Body Wash

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Before you soap up in the shower, you're going to want to make sure you're not washing your body with formaldehyde. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a number of soaps and body washes on their formaldehyde list. If you want to ensure your bath routine is formaldehyde-free, choose products that contain only ingredients you can pronounce and understand. Target also carries formaldehyde-free bath products, and has a dedicated list on its website.

3. Furniture

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While your apartment might look chic AF, if you've furnished it with particleboard pieces or synthetic wood, it may contains formaldehyde, which is released into the air over time as the furniture out gasses. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s Proposition 65 website — which requires businesses make determinations and provide warnings for exposures to carcinogens and reproductive toxicants — recommended choosing furniture made of solid wood or stainless steel, or furniture with lower formaldehyde gas-emission labels. Of course, this kind of quality furniture is really expensive. You can reduce the amount of formaldehyde released from your furniture by keeping your pad cool and dry and making sure you have adequate ventilation in your home because your furniture is more likely to give off gas in hot, damp, and enclosed environments.

4. Pet Products

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If you're committed to giving only the best to your fur babies, make sure the products you're using on them are formaldehyde-free. Even some products labeled organic show up on the USDHHS list of products containing formaldehyde. Instead of harsh chemicals, you can opt to use essential oils to bathe your pets and treat them for fleas.

5. Your New Home

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Thinking of moving into a fly new space-age pad? If you want to reduce your exposure to formaldehyde, you may be better off opting for a historic building instead. While it's always nice to have something bright and shiny, newly constructed buildings are often made with synthetic materials, which means they contain significantly higher levels of formaldehyde than older buildings constructed with brick and hardwood, according to the EPA.

6. Gas Stoves & Kerosene Space Heaters

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While the building materials are less likely to expose you to toxic chemicals, a few downsides to living in an older building include poor ventilation and drafty apartments. Because formaldehyde can also be emitted from unventilated fuel-burning products, if you have a gas stove or a kerosene space heater, it's important to make sure your home or apartment is properly ventilated, the EPA noted.

7. Hair Straightening Treatments

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If you get a hair straightening treatment at the salon on the regular, you're being exposed to formaldehyde. The United States Department of Labor reported on its website that many of these treatments contain higher levels of formaldehyde than what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers safe. This means that those who work in salons where these treatments are administered have a higher rate of exposure than those just visiting the salon.

There's no way to completely avoid formaldehyde — it's also released into the environment from refineries — but if you're chemically sensitive, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure. While it takes a little more vigilance, it's worth it in the long run.