Formaldehyde … What Is It?

Formaldehyde—also sometimes listed by its systematic name, methanol—is an organic compound that’s a colorless gas, characterized by a pungent odor. Found in a myriad of places, such as building materials (carpet, plywood, and insulation materials), cleaning products, and personal products (shampoo, conditioner, and even kid’s soap), it’s a chemical that definitely makes the “to be avoided” list.

What’s the problem with a little formaldehyde in your child’s body wash?

For starters, US Health and Human Services released in 2011 an updated list of “known carcinogens,” and formaldehyde made the list.

Beyond that, while you may believe that a little formaldehyde “here and there” isn’t an issue of concern, think about how much likely exists in your home when you add it all up. If you’re like most Americans, you’re exposing yourself to a vast amount of chemicals without even realizing it; your carpet, furniture, cleaning supplies, and personal products are just some of the sources that affect you and your family on a daily basis.

It’s true that you can’t control your air quality everywhere you go, but you can control that of your home. By making simple changes to limit your family’s exposure to formaldehyde, you reduce their risk for cancer.


Simply take the time to read the labels of products you’re purchasing and be cognizant of avoiding this chemical. We know that complete elimination of any one toxic agent in your environment may be impossible, but limiting your exposure is not. Our series on personal products (shampoo, body wash, deodorant, lotion, and more) will help you tremendously; you may be surprised to learn that there are healthy, non-toxic products out there—you just need to know what you’re looking for!