Posted by Claudia Grazioso on June 10, 2011
When our first child outgrew the crib, we went toddler bed shopping. My criteria were simple. It had to be easy to put together, and it had to be cheap because I suspected it wasn’t going to last very long. I should have added another criteria to this list: It had to be free from formaldehyde.
At the time, it didn’t occur to me that baby furniture, toddler furniture and kid furniture would be made from materials soaked in and treated with formaldehyde. To me, formaldehyde was the fluid that the about-to-be-dissected frogs floated in during junior high science class. It was a chemical used to embalm dead bodies and… preserve creepy things. It was not — repeat, not — something I thought I’d have to worry about being in my children’s furniture.
Of course, I learned that it was in children’s furniture after we’d bought the Cheap and Easy Toddler Bed. My solace is that, as predicted, that bed wasn’t around long and by the time I bought regular beds for my kids, I learned to look for products that had not been treated with formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde was classified in 1987 as a “probable” carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. I take that to mean it is a definite carcinogen and, not surprisingly, that’s how the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies it. Furthermore, asthma and other respiratory problems in children have been attributed to exposure to high levels of formaldehyde emissions.
Unfortunately, since it is widely used in building materials, adhesives, glues and paints, formaldehyde can be pretty hard to avoid entirely. But since it is also used to treat composite wood like particle board, plywood and fiber board — materials that are usually used to make baby and toddler furniture — you can lower your and your child’s exposure to this dangerous chemical by buying products that haven’t been treated. Ask about the furniture you’re about to buy, or do some research online for formaldehyde-free alternatives.
A bill was recently passed that seems to recognize that exposure to formaldehyde can have a bad impact on human health. The bill sets limits on the level of formaldehyde emissions from faux-wood products like fiberboard and particleboard to .09 ppms (parts per million). That’s the good news. The bad news is that these standards don’t go into effect until 2013. In the meantime, if you’re concerned about formaldehyde and its possible impact on your children’s health, in addition to buying furniture not treated with it, keep your home well-ventilated.