During the 1970s, many homeowners had urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) installed in the wall cavities of their homes as an energy conservation measure. However, many of these homes were found to have relatively high indoor concentrations of formaldehyde soon after the UFFI installation. Studies show that formaldehyde emissions from UFFI decline with time; therefore, homes in which UFFI was installed many years ago are unlikely to have high levels of formaldehyde now.
Maida Commercial and Home Inspection Services does not provide testing or referrals for UFFI.
In more recent years, another urea-formaldehyde (UF) spray foam product has been used for insulation. Although it is technically classified as a urea-formaldehyde material, it's functionality is different than UFFI. Previously, UFFI materials were made of liquid resins with more formaldehyde to maintain their shelf lives, which was directly responsible for the off-gassing issues associated with it. The more recent UF spray foam product's liquid resin is produced by reacting controlled amounts of urea and formaldehyde and then drying the liquid to remove any VOCs, including free formaldehyde. Therefore, less formaldehyde would be expected to be released.
In homes, the most significant sources of formaldehyde are likely to be pressed wood products made using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. Pressed wood products made for indoor use include: particleboard (used as sub-flooring and shelving and in cabinetry and furniture); hardwood plywood paneling (used for decorative wall covering and used in cabinets and furniture); and medium density fiberboard (used for drawer fronts, cabinets, and furniture tops). Medium density fiberboard contains a higher resin-to-wood ratio than any other UF pressed wood product and is generally recognized as being the highest formaldehyde-emitting pressed wood product.
Formaldehyde is an important chemical used widely by industry to manufacture building materials and numerous household
products. It is also a by-product of combustion and certain other natural processes. Thus, it may be present in substantial
concentrations both indoors and outdoors.
Sources of formaldehyde in the home include building materials, smoking, household products, and the use of un-vented, fuelburning
appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters. Formaldehyde, by itself or in combination with other chemicals,
serves a number of purposes in manufactured products. For example, it is used to add permanent-press qualities to clothing and
draperies, as a component of glues and adhesives, and as a preservative in some paints and coating products.
Efforts have been made by both the government and industry to reduce exposure to formaldehyde. CPSC (U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission) voted to ban urea-formaldehyde foam insulation in 1992. That ban was over-turned in the courts, but this action greatly reduced the residential use of the insulation product. CPSC, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other federal agencies have historically worked with the pressed wood industry to further reduce the release of the chemical from their products. A 1985 HUD regulation covering the use of pressed wood products in manufactured housing was designed to ensure that indoor levels are below 0.4 ppm. However, it would be unrealistic to expect to completely remove formaldehyde from the air. Some persons who are extremely sensitive to formaldehyde may need to reduce or stop using these products.
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