Formaldéhyde sources et impacts santé

Formaldehyde: sources and health impacts

Formaldehyde is a chemical substance found in many everyday products, but few people are aware of its presence and the health risks it can pose.

Reading time: 4 minutes



What is formaldehyde?
What are the sources
What are the environmental and health impacts of formaldehyde?
How to protect yourself and reduce emissions?

What is formaldehyde? 

Formaldehyde is an organic chemical compound (VOC) with the chemical formula CH2O. It is also known as methanal or formaldehyde. At room temperature, it exists as a colorless gas with a pungent odor. Formaldehyde is a chemical widely used in various industrial, commercial, and household applications.

Formaldehyde: what are the sources?  

Formaldehyde is present in multiple professional sectors and in numerous consumer products. It is used as a disinfecting biocide, a fixative, and a preservative. It can be found in DIY products, cleaning agents, wall coverings, flooring, furniture, plastics, and more.

🏠 In the indoor environment

In enclosed spaces, formaldehyde is a substance that can be found everywhere. The sources responsible for the observed levels are primarily of three types:

Construction and furnishing products: especially particle boards, which are glued with aminoplast and phenoplast resins; their manufacturing accounts for approximately 85% of the formaldehyde consumed in France,

Household products: cleaning products, cosmetics, paints, varnishes, adhesives… in which formaldehyde is often used as a preservative,

– Domestic combustion (present in all combustion fumes):: cooking food, heating spaces, decorative fireplaces, as well as smoking or the use of incense.

Formaldehyde emissions can be increased in poorly ventilated spaces.


⛰ In the outdoor environement

In addition to indoor emissions, formaldehyde can also originate from external sources, including industrial emissions, vehicle exhaust fumes, and forest fires.

Formaldehyde: impacts on health and the environment

Formaldehyde can have harmful effects on human health and the environment:

💙 Impact on health

Formaldehyde is characterized by its strong reactivity with biological macromolecules. Consequently, when inhaled, most formaldehyde is retained in the nose, oral mucosa, trachea, and proximal bronchi, which are the first contact sites in humans, including the ocular mucosa.

  • Respiratory Irritation: Inhalation of formaldehyde can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as respiratory issues like coughing and wheezing.
  • Skin Allergies: Direct contact with the skin can trigger allergic reactions.
  • Presumed carcinogenicity:Formaldehyde was classified as a “known human carcinogen” (Group 1) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2004. At the European level, formaldehyde is classified as a Category 1B carcinogen and a Category 2 mutagen.
Short-term effects

👉Maux de tête

👉 Inconfort olfactif

👉 Irritation de la peau et des muqueuses

👉 Fatigue

👉 Toux, respiration douloureuse

👉 Pneumonie, bronchite

Long-term effects

👉Le système nerveux central est altéré (maux de tête, anxiété)

👉 Maladies cardiovasculaires

👉 Maladies respiratoires (asthme)

👉 Cancers

👉 Impacts sur le foie, la rate, le sang

👉 Impacts sur l’appareil reproducteur

🌍 Impact on environment 

Formaldehyde also causes harmful effects on the environment and biodiversity.

  • On air quality: As a VOC (volatile organic compound), it contributes to the photochemical formation of tropospheric ozone (also known as smog), which is detrimental to human health.
  • On water and soils: Formaldehyde can be transported in water and deposited in lakes, rivers, and soils, potentially having adverse effects on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
  • On biodiversity:Excessive emissions of formaldehyde can impact biodiversity by affecting natural habitats and disrupting ecosystems (such as reducing tree growth rates or causing lung hemorrhages in birds).
  • On climate change: Although formaldehyde itself is not a major greenhouse gas, it can indirectly contribute to climate change by reacting in the atmosphere to form compounds that have climate-related effects.

How to protect yourself and reduce formaldehyde emissions?

It’s essential to take steps to reduce formaldehyde exposure and minimize emissions. Here are a few tips to protect yourself and help reduce the environmental impact of formaldehyde:

🏠 In the house

👉 Ventilate regularly

Ensure good indoor ventilation to reduce the concentration of formaldehyde in the air.

Avoid products containing formaldehyde

When buying furniture or consumer products, choose products certified as “low formaldehyde” or “no formaldehyde added”..

🏙 In company

👉 Respect safety rules

If you work in an environment where formaldehyde is used, make sure you follow safety procedures, use adequate protective equipment and work in a well-ventilated area.

👉 Substitute formaldehyde

Wherever possible, consider safer alternatives to formaldehyde in industrial processes.

👉 Implement emission reduction measures

Use environmental monitoring technologies and practices that minimize the release of formaldehyde into the air.

Measure and monitor formaldehyde with Meersens solutions

It is crucial to be aware of the potential risks associated with formaldehyde in our daily environment.

To ensure your safety, that of your citizens or employees, and to contribute to environmental preservation, it is essential to take measures to reduce both exposure to and emissions of formaldehyde.

At Meersens, we understand the importance of monitoring the air quality you breathe. That’s why we offer environmental quality analysis solutions, including formaldehyde detection. You can stay informed in real-time about formaldehyde levels in your environment.

Contact us to learn more about how Meersens can help you monitor and improve the air quality you breathe

By taking steps to reduce its use and emissions, we can help create a safer, healthier environment for everyone.

Do you have to deal with high concentrations of formaldehyde?

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