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January 16, 1981

The Health Cost of 'Tight' Homes

Author Affiliations

University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine Seattle

JAMA. 1981;245(3):267-268. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310280043027

Home insulation means energy conservation. How can one find fault with a concept that, it is hoped, will allow us to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Unfortunately, the present energy conservation program as it applies to building structures and, most important, to homes involves making our habitable structures as "tight" as possible. There is no doubt that unless a reasonable and logical plan is developed, the deleterious health impacts of excessive home tightening will be enormous. The use of urea formaldehyde foam insulation and particle board resulting in long-term formaldehyde release simply highlights some of these consequences (see p 243).

Formaldehyde's potential for causing skin disease has been well documented: it can induce dermatitis by irritation, delayed-type hypersensitivity, and immediate urticarial reactions. It can result in irritation of the eyes and upper respiratory tract. Formaldehyde has also been incriminated in the induction of an inflammatory bronchitis and bronchial asthma.