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Are RVs Still Made with Formaldehyde?

Health issues can stop a camping trip short. Nausea and watery eyes make it difficult to enjoy spending time with the family. Even worse, it could be your own RV making you sick.

RV formaldehyde in the construction materials of your vehicle could be causing your cough.

Today we’re digging deep into the relationship between RVs and formaldehyde.

RV Formaldehyde Is a Real Thing

Most of us think of formaldehyde as a “pickling agent,” as in embalming. It actually changes the makeup of body tissue so that bacteria can’t break it down easily.

But when used in recreational vehicle building materials, formaldehyde can off-gas, leaving both humans and pets feeling a little under the weather.

So worries about RVs built with formaldehyde-laced products are a real concern.

Do All RVs Have Formaldehyde?

Thankfully, fewer manufacturers have used formaldehyde in RV construction in recent years. In fact, many RV manufacturers have endorsed certifications stating that their products don’t use materials that include formaldehyde.

Many newer models don’t include the chemical, but if you own an older motorhome or travel trailer or don’t know if your RV contains formaldehyde glue, there are a few ways to find out.

Check your cabinetry. Is it made of solid wood or particleboard?

If you have a bed on a platform, look at the type of wood. The use of RV formaldehyde allows the builder to utilize less expensive materials in construction. These products withstand dramatic temperature changes and are lighter weight than solid woods.

Most RVs made with particle wood or plywood aren’t made to last long term. But if you’re worried that your coach or fifth wheel may have high levels of the substance, there are also test kits available that can tell you for sure. 

The Issue with Using Formaldehyde in RV Construction

Many times you can pinpoint formaldehyde use in your recreational vehicle. It’s that chemical smell that may make your eyes water. Some people are more susceptible to its dangers than others. This compound can cause health issues for both humans and their pets.

Human Illness

If you suffer from itchy skin, headaches, watery or burning eyes, coughing, wheezing, or nausea when spending time in your RV, you might have formaldehyde-based glue in your rig. People who suffer from allergies can get especially noticeable symptoms.

There have also been some instances of leukemia and nasopharynx cancers in workers exposed to high levels of formaldehyde, like industrial laborers and embalmers. But those who encounter smaller levels show no sign of increased risk for cancer. 

Pet Illness

Your dog or cat can also suffer from the effects of formaldehyde exposure from the off-gassing of furniture materials, carpets, and laminate flooring. Particleboard, plywood, and even medium density fiberboard can harbor the culprit that brings on burning sensations in the respiratory tract, eyes, and skin.

Can Living in an RV Make You Sick?

Even though it’s a naturally occurring compound, RV formaldehyde releases dangerous gasses in hot, humid conditions. If you’re planning to live in an RV for longer periods, you must research your rig to see if it contains products that use formaldehyde and give the RV time to off-gas, especially if it’s new and just off the assembly line.

Otherwise, you may find yourself struggling with eye irritations, nausea, or a burning throat. 

How Long Does Formaldehyde Off-Gassing Last?

Fresh air is the best treatment for formaldehyde off-gassing. Opening windows and doors, running fans, and allowing the gasses to dissipate will lower your exposure to the substance. Depending on how much formaldehyde you have in your rig, it could take a couple of days to a year to get rid of the chemical smell.

Why Are RVs Made with Formaldehyde?

Many less expensive recreational vehicles were made with particleboard and pressed wood, which uses formaldehyde as an ingredient in glue. It makes things like cabinets, floorboards, and bed supports lighter and more durable in extreme temperatures.

This adds up to an RV that is easier to afford, transport, and camp in for short periods.

Most RVers use their rigs for family vacations, hunting trips, and weekend jaunts, so they may not experience the full effects of formaldehyde off-gassing. If you use your RV more frequently, you may begin to notice the gasses. 

How to Avoid RV Formaldehyde

An older rig may have already off-gassed. These RVs have had time to air out. In fact, if you have an RV built before 2000, the chances that your rig will still be off-gassing formaldehyde fumes are very slight. 

If you’re in the initial stages of research before purchasing your dream RV, consider the following manufacturers who have certified that their new models don’t contain formaldehyde. They include Airstream, Gulf Stream, Coachmen, Casita Travel Trailers, Forest River, Lance, Roadtrek, Safari, and Oliver Travel Trailers.

Look for recreational vehicles constructed with aluminum rather than plywood. Those that use more solid wood also tend to contain less formaldehyde. Other safe construction materials include adzel, fiberglass, and plastic.

RV formaldehyde can put an end to fun family camping trips if it’s not taken care of correctly. Know what you’re dealing with and take quick action to rid your rig of this irritant. Have you ever had a rig that contained formaldehyde? How did you deal with it?

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  1. Flora Mathison says:

    I recently purchased a 2016 Forest River R-pod 180 that I’m planning to live in full time, & it does have some of the materials you mentioned. Is it possible it’s still outgassing? I’ve done a lot of airing out this summer with fan running, but as a cancer survivor, I’m still concerned. What else can I do to minimize this, especially with winter coming on?

  2. Molly Dexter says:

    Who wants to travel that far for free camping, 1 in every State ??? STUPID !!!(