Formaldehyde Used in Manufactured Homes

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Formaldehyde is sometimes used in the manufacture of cabinet door fronts.
Formaldehyde is sometimes used in the manufacture of cabinet door fronts. (Image: "New cabinets and appliances" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Casey Serin (Casey Serin) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Formaldehyde is a gas that is colorless, yet harbors a strong odor that renders it quite noticeable. It is sometimes mixed with alcohol during the manufacturing process to make a liquid chemical known as “formalin.” The odor of formaldehyde can be overcoming; especially, when confined to the indoor environments of manufactured homes.

What is a Manufactured Home?

A manufactured home is designed and manufactured completely in a factory setting. Palm Harbor Homes of Addison, Texas, explains that manufactured homes were once referred to as “mobile homes” but the terminology has since changed along with the new federal building codes established by HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) in 1976.

Pressed Wood

Pressed wood is used in the production of many manufactured homes and accounts for the majority of formaldehyde exposure. Rebel Home.net reveals that it is the glue that is used in pressed wood that contains formaldehyde. Pressed wood products that are used inside of a manufactured home may include cabinets and cabinet door fronts, paneling, sub-floors and furniture. It is also important to note that the glue that is used to secure carpeting to the sub-floors of manufactured homes often contains high amounts of formaldehyde.

UFFI

UFFI stands for “urea-formaldehyde foam insulation” which was commonly used in the production of manufactured homes in the 1970s. However, U.S. Inspect explains that the high emissions given off by UFFI led the Consumer Product Safety Commissions to ban the product in 1982. The ban was overturned in 1983 but because of the bad publicity that UFFI received during the original ban, the product was used very little in future industry.

1985 HUD Regulations

In 1985, HUD began providing guidelines for formaldehyde emissions in manufactured homes. The use of pressed wood and other materials that contained formaldehyde were still permitted but the emissions that were given off by the materials were required to meet certain specifications. According the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), formaldehyde emissions significantly decrease with age. High humidity can also make the odor of formaldehyde more apparent.

Formaldehyde Testing

There are testing kits available to consumers that can help determine indoor air quality and the amount of formaldehyde that is being released into the environment. Advanced Chemical Sensors, Inc. explains that formaldehyde exposure should not exceed .1ppm (part per million). Higher levels may need to be addressed in order to reduce health risks.

Health Risks of Formaldehyde Exposure

Formaldehyde exposure can cause coughing, wheezing, nausea, skin irritation and watery eyes during the short-term. The National Cancer Institute explains that long-term exposure may have more serious consequences. In 1980, researchers at the National Cancer Institute did identify an association between formaldehyde exposure and cancer—specifically leukemia and brain cancer.

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