Q & A: Formaldehyde and Plywood Walls Air quality concerns with formaldehyde off gassing in home from plywood walls

Q. We have a woman who attends our church that recently found out she is allergic to formaldehyde? Our new family life center building has plywood floors and walls. Is there anything we can do to the walls/floors to keep them from emitting the formaldehyde?
-Kristy, Missouri

A. Plywood unlike particleboard only emits minute amounts of formaldehyde. As such plywood flooring is unlikely to have any significant effect on indoor formaldehyde concentrations. In some cases plywood floors are coated with acid-cured finishes that can release significant quantities of formaldehyde. However, such emissions decrease by about 90+ percent in the first 3-6 months of the life of the product. Plywood wall paneling does release formaldehyde albeit at much lower levels than was the case a decade or so ago. Again the levels decrease significantly with time. Once formaldehyde -emitting products are in place one can only remove and replace them, expect that within a year the formaldehyde level will be acceptable, and reduce levels by providing as much ventilation as is practical.