Formaldehyde is a simple chemical compound made of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, with the formula CH2O. All organic life forms— bacteria, plants, fish, animals and humans—make formaldehyde. It is an essential compound and is present in all tissues.
Formaldehyde does not accumulate in the environment or within plants, animals or people as it is metabolized quickly and continuously. First used as a biological preservative more than a century ago, man-made formaldehyde has since become an essential component in the production of hundreds of beneficial products that are used every day in homes and factories. Formaldehyde-based technologies are an important part of the global economy, as they are used to produce a wide range of value-added materials.
Because of its unique and versatile nature, formaldehyde is an extremely common and beneficial part of modern life. Synthetic resins and adhesives made from formaldehyde are used to make thousands of end products, from plywood and other wood panels to autos, computers, electronic devices and even light bulbs.
While formaldehyde is an essential building block in a diverse range of products, its end use is primarily in a converted form. This means that virtually all the formaldehyde is consumed in making the final product. Advances in product quality and performance have significantly lowered formaldehyde emissions from consumer products.