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Chemical Exposure

There are approximately 140,000 chemicals used to manufacture products that we use on a daily basis, and the majority of these chemicals have not been evaluated for their human health impact. In addition, most people are exposed to a complex mixture of chemicals, and we do not understand how these mixtures may synergistically react with the human body. For example, the air within a home typically contains up to 500 different volatile organic compounds or VOCs and common sources include our furnishings, cooking, personal care products, hobbies, and cleaners. Chemical Insights is developing methodologies for characterizing this type of pollution and evaluating tools for assessing its potential toxicity and impact on human health. Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, is one of the most prolific volatile chemicals found in the indoor environment. It has many known sources, and recent events have identified flooring and furniture made with pressed wood products, such as particleboard and fiberboard, as key contributors to airborne levels. Although some regulations address the release of formaldehyde from raw manufactured boards, there is no consistent guidance available to consumers in purchasing finished products or acceptable levels for their homes. Chemical Insights’ research brought together key stakeholders to discuss this issue, identifying significant confusion in the marketplace and lack of clear guidance for consumers. This group will continue to work toward developing a homeowner guidance document and an online tool for assessing formaldehyde levels and consumer risks. Interested in learning more about chemical exposure? Read about Chemical Insights in the news or access the group’s archived publication library.