The Hidden Formaldehyde In Everyday Products

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on

Embalming Fluid

Producers are tricky, and their business sometimes involves tricking consumers. They trick us into buying very handy products for cleaning, deodorizing, softening, smoothing, and beautifying that often contain dangerous chemicals.

If the word “formaldehyde” doesn’t remind you of an embalmed body on a cold steel table, it should!

Formaldehyde has been used for decades to embalm dead bodies for open casket burials. It is a preservation fluid that replaces the blood, it is a recognized cancer causing agent (carcinogen) by the National Cancer Institute, and oh, by the way, it is in most of the products you buy and use around your home, even the materials your home was built with!

Is My Home Embalmed?

It might surprise you to know that much of the shelving, furniture, wall finishes, carpet, cabinetry and flooring in your home could contain this dangerous chemical. Formaldehyde can also be found in these building materials:

  • Glue
  • Plywood
  • Fiberboard
  • Insulation
  • Particleboard
  • Timber Paneling

What Other Products May Contain Formaldehyde?

Many personal cleansing and beauty products contain formaldehyde, think about that before you put them on your skin, your largest organ. Here are some of the personal products that might contain this toxin:

  • Lotions
  • Shampoos
  • Sunblock
  • Soap Bars
  • Cosmetics
  • Body Wash
  • Toothpaste
  • Baby Wipes
  • Bubble Bath

Am I Cleaning My Home With Formaldehyde?

The short answer is… probably.

Cleaning Products

Are you reading every single label? If not, chances are that you are probably using some fairly toxic chemicals in your house cleaning regime. The best rule of thumb is to look for products that say things like “Non-toxic to humans and aquatic life,” or “readily biodegradable.”

I’ve read my product labels, and they don’t say I’m using formaldehyde containing products.

While it’s great you’re reading product labels, you must be aware that those tricky manufacturers often use synonyms that don’t usually create attention in their consumers. Synonyms and chemicals that “act like” formaldehyde are often used on ingredient lists. Be wary of products containing the following ingredients:

  • Formalin
  • Methanal
  • Oxymethyline
  • Urea
  • 1,3-Dioxetane
  • Quaternium 15
  • Methylaldehyde
  • Methylene Oxide
  • Formic Aldehyde
  • Oxomethane Formalin
  • Phenol Formaldehyde

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Safety provides a quick reference list of some products known to contain formaldehyde [1]. I’m appalled at the number of baby and kid products on the list, as these little angels usually have no say in whether they’re being exposed or not [2].

The Dangers of Using Products Containing Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde Health

Watery, burning eyes, nose and throat, asthmatic attacks, skin irritation, headaches and nausea are all possible short term side effects of formaldehyde exposure [3]. Long term effects include cancer and possibly leukemia.

Most products contain only very small amounts of harmful chemicals. The danger lies in our modern habits of using many of these products, and for a long time. As you surround yourself with more and more formaldehyde-containing products your exposure level increases. Similarly, the longer you expose yourself to these products the more exposure you are getting.

Precautions You Can Take to Avoid Formaldehyde Exposure

The first step is getting these chemicals out of your home. Cleaning and personal care products can be easily replaced with natural alternatives (remember to look for products that are “readily biodegradable” and “non toxic to humans and aquatic life”).

Other things, like particle board or pressed wood, may take longer to replace, but should be replaced as soon as practical. Or you can use an organic clay paint to absorb any potential out-gassing the next time you paint your walls. In time, you can greatly reduce your exposure to formaldehyde just by knowing what to look for and what to avoid.

And isn’t it worth this small change now to avoid the potential long term health impacts on you and those you care about?

References (3)
  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Household Products Database U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
  2. Lyndsey Layton. Probable carcinogens found in baby toiletries. The Washington Post. 2009 March 13.
  3. Formaldehyde Side Effects.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • wow.. that’s some scary stuff!

  • Dominique

    Thank you for this article.
    Formaldehyde exposure may lead to a rather severe contact allergy. While more and more people became aware of formaldehyde content in their grooming, beauty, household articles, etc., it is widely unknown that the clothes you are wearing or your bed shits are made of formaldehyde-treated fabrics.
    I am an airline stuff and I developed a severe formaldehyde allergy after my airline made us wear uniform blouses that were loaded with formaldehyde. Wearing the shiny cotton blouses on an intercontinental flights was a torture and no matter how often the blouses were washed, there was enough formaldehyde in the fabric to cause skin rashes and breathing problems. For a while the airline ignored the reports from affected employees. However, when the cases multiplied, new blouses from a different fabric were designed. The new fabric was tested for formaldehyde and the contact allergies disappeared. What was left, however, was the incredible sensitivity to the smallest amount of this poisonous substance.
    Formaldehyde may also be found in shoes and leather attire as well as in products made of rubber.

  • Kate Murphy

    I couldn’t believe what household products contain these toxic chemicals! I joined Melaleuca as a result- over 400 natural products with no carcinogens. What a difference it’s made for me and my family!

  • Andrea

    Read all hair color product labels -they all contain formaldehyde-which is carcinogenic .Educate your self now before is to late.Hospitals use formaldehyde to safe tissue post operation in laboratory with huge red warnig signs-and sceleton picture.

  • mig

    if formaldehyde is such a bad thing then why is it an ingredient of the products listed on this page? if it is an unnecessary additive they might as well consider black widow venom or belly button fuzz, right?

  • Kristen

    My husband and I have also recently joined Melaleuca as a result of this information! What they allow in our products is completely unacceptable and we must get the word out to people because they simply remain uneducated on what they are using every day.

  • Erika Harvey

    I am glad to see that there is an alternative to formaldehyde products!

  • Amy

    Me too! I love Melaleuca!

  • Pakistan Resident

    My husband and I have also recently joined Melaleuca as a result of this information! What they allow in our products is completely unacceptable and we must get the word out to people

  • Ben

    there are a lot of scare stories about chemicals that are out there, what they put in food, drinks, detergents etc. But on the whole, there is a problem. I don’t understand how anyone at any point in history decided that surrounding us and allowing us to consume such a vast array of chemicals that may not otherwise have been found in our normal diet or daily lives had we been wild animals, could be good for us. I have a little doubt that at some point in the future people will begin to phase out the majority of these potentially dangerous chemicals and look back upon this era as one in which man went on quite literally a chemical binge.

  • lorie

    contact me ok i can tell you more

  • Formaldehyde is an odorless and tasteless gas that does not leave a smell and this makes it extremely difficult to locate. This gas tends to collect in homes and causes a range of medical problems, from eye irritations to respiratory problems, but most people do not even know it’s there.

  • Court

    Any Fabric that is not 100 percent fabric is treated with formeldahyde. I have a severe allergy to even a small amount. I’ve had to go to specialists. Almost everything in your house has formeldahyde including some foods.

  • ratherjadedwebsurfer

    of course it’s everywhere, it’s an organic chemical found often in nature. Humans can metabolize formaldehyde very quickly and without much harm. Unless you work in an industrial setting where you come into contact with large quantities as part of your daily life you should not have any problems. Yes it’s very toxic (but so is undiluted Vitamin D). Yes it’s a known carcinogen (but so is sunlight).

    By the way it’s completely unavoidable anyways because its found naturally in fruits and vegetables (especially apples)

  • ratherjadedwebsurfer

    there’s no such thing as a product completely without carcinogens

  • Kris

    I had 2 perfectly healthy children until I moved into a manufactured home. Since, we have all been plagued by illness including child #3 who was in the house for the first 3 years of her life. I do find it odd than no one at the health dept or the neumerious doctors, we have seen wanted to even discuss the possibility that house was the cause!

  • natalie

    I have been exposed to formaldehyde in a blanket, with a reading of 1300 ppm, should have been 75 ppm, I am very ill, autoimmune angioedema, headaches, government have me angry, because I keep getting exposed to everything, cause its almost everything, bought 2 blankets last week, the fumes were shocking, returned to store, contacted accc, government , trying to get Australia to get a safety standard, follow japans law on safety of chemicals and they know this chemical causes cancer, also root canals contain chloroform, which is formic acid, which is formaldehyde, I had 7 root canalled teeth, had to have them all extracted.

  • My thoughts exactly, they even mentioned urea on their little list, I mean seriously, do they not know that we have a lot of these things in our bodies already?

  • Misty Thompson

    This is an amazing article! I’ve been preaching these things for a long time, and there’s more than just this one chemical causing major health problems! I would love to help anyone that wants to make their home safe with affordable solutions! I work with a billion dollar company that has made it their mission to help others since opening their doors in 1985. Paying for more natual products with no chemicals in them can be expensive, but it’s not with my company! A lot of the time, it’s actually less expensive than Wal-Mart and the dollar stores, and it’s never more than the others. Shoot me an email, and we can set up an appointment to show you over the internet and phone since we don’t know eachother. My name is Misty Thompson and my email is Or you can shoot me a text or call at (308)539-5502. Happy to help!

  • Miss Canada

    I have severe formaldehyde contact allergy. It is disabling. It is awful. More awful is how the Canadian health care system has proceeded to call me crazy and put up every barrier possible to formal diagnosis. Severe angiodema, and urticaria, every item of commercial clothing and footwear is unbearable and unwearable.

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  • Veronica

    So can dead people get cancer since they are embalmed with formaldehyde?
    – seriously idiotic

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  • David Ginsberg

    No, but filling up our dead with chemicals and then burying them in the ground to pollute the soil is a cancer in itself. What’s the point? So we don’t have to look at their bodies in that state for the burial service. Seems selfish. What a silly comment.

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  • Dev Jay

    Banning plastic is the way to go although it would never happen.

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  • Veronica

    Help. I am suffering from chemical and electrical sensitivities. It has destroyed my life. Lost my ability to work, my home, and my savings. I have also lost my family as a result. Looking at being homeless n the next week. Was a successful person prior to these conditions. They have destroyed me. Please help.

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  • Lindsey Gill Lmt

    You don’t have to work in an industrial setting to become allergic to formeldehyde because it’s everywhere is why it’s easy to become allergic to it too much frequent contact with any chemical can cause our bodies natural skin barrier to weaken and not being able to fight the effects of the chemical so when the government puts to highly concentrated amounts of formeldehyde in our products we use everyday we wear it breath it lay on it it eat it ect. How is that you can even try and stick up for the unnecessary use of it in our everyday products! Stfu you sound ignorant and show no compassion to people who have this struggle and are actually in need of some in sight and support when you know what it’s like to deal with a sever allergy to formeldehyde like as you stated is everywhere and unavoidable that has made everyday life a struggle then maybe people would actually care about what you think

  • Lindsey Gill Lmt

    Same to you

  • Joe Jones

    Formeldehyde is produced naturally by the body, in much smaller quantities than you in food.

    ITS IN YOUR BODY. I can’t help if you get contact dermatitis, but it’s not the formaldehyde in food

  • Lindsey Gill Lmt

    I’m not claiming it’s what’s in the food that causes allergic responses and health issues so i still domt know what poi t you were trying to make in that comment or in your first what’s in our bodies and food is yes because it’s in the air and entering our bodies but they don’t need to spray it on the outside of produce to preserve it just like it doesn’t need to be in soap makeup cleaners carpet furniture adhesives ect the purpose of this article was to inform people that long term exposure can cause health problems and obviously he is not lying about any of it because me along with other people suffer from the unnecessary use of it it’s a carcinogenic you said the sun is a cargiogenic right that’s why tanning beds are un safe because of the high levels of exposure you said you can’t help it that I have contact dermatitis but the government could have and who’s to say just because you don’t have to suffer from it now means you won’t at some point in your life time to this chemical or any of the other thousands that everyone’s exposed to including you and children show a little compassion and awareness until you walk in someone’s shoes who cant controll the thing that makes their lives sufferable don’t act like you know everything about it because obviously you don’t

  • Joe Jones

    My point is that the amount of formaldehyde in these products isn’t anywhere near the levels found in food or the amount your body produces naturally. Let alone anywhere near dangerous levels. Formaldehyde is mostly inhaled, and is present naturally in the air at very low levels, using products with formaldehyde in will, for a very short period of time, raise the amount of formaldehyde in the air. Again this is well below dangerous levels, in fact you’d be exposed to more formaldehyde smoking a cigarette than you would from using a cleaning product for months.

    At these very low levels your body just deals with it like it does with all the other toxic things that our bodies ingest/produce.

  • Lindsey Gill Lmt

    That’s is not true at all im sorry but you are wrong I’m a massage therapist i worked in a bar I’m a mother… I cleaned with it massaged with it I bathed in it lay on it wear it I physically cannot even touch someone else who uses it on they’re skin without having a allergic response now i have to make my own bath soaps laundry soaps lotions cleaners ect because my hands feet fore arms knees neck ect all breakout severely even with the slightest contact and if there’s high enough levels in the air it can still tiger a allergic reaction even to my skin not just to my lungs cus I breath it I don’t have breathing problems due to it being jn the air it’s because it’s used in everyday items that’s unavoidable I can’t use soap in bath rooms i have to bring my own I can’t use hand sanitizers even going grocery shopping I can’t touch produce cus its sprayed with it shopping carts because it’s on people’s skin and they touch these things I can’t hold someone’s hand I can’t go to places like amusements parks without wearing gloves or dealing with the break outs that even if you don’t come into contact with it at all will still cause your skin to break out for 3-6 months after even just minimal exposure sometimes in some sever cases 8 months and if you do come in contact in that time sets back the healing process of the skin do your research

  • Joe Jones

    None of those things you listed make you any more qualified to talk about this than a monkey.

    You can’t prove any of this, you get ill, you’ve decided it was formaldehyde, which I’m telling you is IMPOSSIBLE. If the slight amount of formaldehyde in the air triggers a reaction, then you’d quite simply be unable to go outside ever.

    You’re suffering from hypochondria

  • Lindsey Gill Lmt

    Why do you keep saying in the air?!?!?! It’s in fabric soap detergents adhesives ect and I guess the papers I have from my dermatologist are false to right like I said you sound ignorant and must have missed what this who article was about that it’s not just in the air it’s in products we use on our skin use to clean with and build with

  • Lindsey Gill Lmt

    But I’m just making it up

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  • lisa

    I have a severe allergy to formaldehyde and food is a BIG factor. Yes, the products I use have impact too but my detmatitis most definitely can (and for me does) be affected by the food. If I eat pork, or bananas my skin is horrible for a few days, but I can eat watermellon all day and have no reaction. I have a list of foods that naturally produce formaldehyde, but they all produce different amounts. So please do not say that formaldehyde in food has nothing to do with that.


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  • Heather Phillips

    A woman that works for Buffalo Wild Wings says they use formaldehyde in the traditional chicken! And I’ve heard that about other chicken places such as Church’s chicken. WTF!!

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  • Lynn McGarvey

    I have tested my IPad and found high levels of formaldehyde. It effects my asthma, makes me sneeze or makes breathing difficult after a few minutes. Would like a formaldehyde free IPad. Also my computer screen.

  • elchepe

    Its also a naturally occurring organic compound found in fruits and vegetables.

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