While we hoped we were done with formaldehyde after 7th grade dissection lab, it turns out that the toxic chemical, linked with allergies, asthma, and cancer, is widely used in glues binding composite woods, which are commonly used in furniture. A volatile organic compound (VOC), formaldehyde readily evaporates from products. Babies who hate cribs are vindicated by the news that several widely sold cribs and changing tables emit levels of formaldehyde posing "increased risk of developing allergies or asthma," according to a study released last week by Environment California.
While formaldehyde fumes from a crib and changing table alone could fill a house with average levels of about 30 parts per billion (ppb), exposure would be highest, of course, for the baby in the nursery--possibly as high as 75 ppb, the study found. Other studies have shown that 44 percent of children in homes containing more than 40 ppb of formaldehyde had asthma. The presence of other pressed woods in a home, such as particleboard, plywood and fiberboard in tables, desks, shelving, flooring and cabinets, could easily send formaldehyde concentrations above 40 ppb.
Needless to say, while especially threatening to developing children, formaldehyde is no picnic for adults, either.
This article originally appeared in Plenty in May 2008. The story was moved to MNN.com.