Should You Be Concerned About Formaldehyde in Laminate Flooring?

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated November 2, 2021
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Overexposure to formaldehyde can increase your risk of health problems like cancer

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Do you love the look of your laminate wood flooring but worry it’s a health hazard? You’re not alone. Countless studies show a link between the formaldehyde in laminate flooring and other household products and increased rates of respiratory issues, allergies, asthma, and even certain cancers. Here’s what you need to know about laminate floors containing formaldehyde.

What Is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a flammable and colorless gas composed of simple compounds like hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. If you’ve ever opened a bottle of nail polish or cracked open a can of fresh paint, then you’ve likely smelled formaldehyde’s strong, infamous odor.

Formaldehyde is a preservative in medical products because of its fungicide, germicide, and disinfectant properties. Manufacturers also use the substance as a building block for bonding glues in the building and construction industry.

Which Home Products Contain the Most Formaldehyde?

Since formaldehyde works so well as a bonding agent, many products you might consider for your next project may contain this ingredient. In fact, you can find formaldehyde in all kinds of household items and materials. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), here are some of the most common products to contain formaldehyde:

  • Wood resins

  • Building materials

  • Insulation

  • Household glues

  • Paints, stains, lacquers, and finishes

  • Makeup, medicine, and washing liquids

  • Furniture

  • Fertilizers and more

Is Formaldehyde in Laminate Flooring Dangerous?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released test results in 2016 that revealed the hazardous, high levels of formaldehyde in certain laminate flooring originating from China. The dangers of formaldehyde, however, were established far before then. 

The EPA declared formaldehyde as a probable carcinogen in 1987. Later studies have shown increased cancer rates in those exposed to formaldehyde in the workforce and other health problems in humans. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined formaldehyde to be carcinogenic to humans in the early 2000s.

Health Risks of Formaldehyde in Laminate Flooring

Acute exposure to formaldehyde can cause several symptoms, including:

  • Allergy-like symptoms: Eye, nose, and throat irritation are common ailments among allergy sufferers, but these symptoms may signal formaldehyde exposure if you recently installed laminate flooring.

  • Asthma-like symptoms: Coughing, wheezing, and lung symptoms may also occur or worsen in those with asthma.

  • Cold- and flu-like symptoms: You might experience watery or burning eyes, nose, and throat symptoms that resemble a cold.

Long-term exposure to formaldehyde can cause more severe and chronic health problems, according to the CDC. Health issues include:

  • Increased risk of nasal, sinus, throat, and lung cancer

  • Reproductive or developmental effects, and

  • Asthma-like respiratory problems

When Are Formaldehyde Exposure Risks Highest?

Two types of laminate flooring are subject to the EPA’s proposed regulations: hardwood plywood and laminate flooring created by a formaldehyde-based resin that attaches a wood veneer to a composite wood platform.

While your laminate flooring must meet regulation standards, you’re still at risk of overexposure if you’re in contact with multiple sources of formaldehyde. For instance, if you make formaldehyde products or use such products regularly in your work, you are more vulnerable to overexposure. That’s why there’s more regulation for businesses that regularly work with formaldehyde-based products, as per OSHA requirements.

You should also keep in mind that products containing formaldehyde are most prone to emissions when new. According to the EPA, the emissions dissipate over time, so the older the floor installation in your home, the lower the levels of formaldehyde it will likely emit.

How to Shop With Formaldehyde in Mind

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The best way to lower your exposure to formaldehyde is to know what’s in the products you use in and around your home. In 2016, the EPA made a final ruling on national standards for formaldehyde through the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act to help you identify such products. 

This act is a voluntary label that companies can use to indicate whether or not manufactured products meet the EPA’s standards for toxic substances control. Look for products labeled or stamped in compliance with these standards to be on the safe side.

At the same time, there are other green laminate flooring indicators that you can use to determine which laminate floorings contain less formaldehyde:

Preventing Formaldehyde Exposure in Laminate Flooring

It’s hard to avoid bringing any formaldehyde-based products into your home. However, you’re less likely to get skin, nose, throat, and lung irritation if you have less concentration inside the house or use preventative measures. 

These tips will help reduce your exposure to formaldehyde:

  • Air it out: It’s important to air out your new laminate flooring or any materials that contain formaldehyde, for that matter!

  • Mask up: Yes, part of reducing your exposure might mean pulling out the old facemask for a few days to prevent inhaling byproducts, especially since formaldehyde can negatively impact indoor air quality.

  • Search for low-VOC flooring: While most laminate flooring contains formaldehyde as an adhesive, this doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to curb the emissions. Search for eco-friendly laminate flooring by keeping an eye out for the green standards we went over up above.

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