If you are in the market for a new household air filter or air treatment system, you may notice that some products claim to reduce or eliminate the effects of formaldehyde fumes. Though low-level formaldehyde exposure is not considered unsafe, excessive exposure can cause serious respiratory discomfort or worse. However, if tested, most households would not register such extreme levels, unless a recent renovation involved solvents or manufactured materials that might give off irritating fumes known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

For example, new paint, synthetic carpeting or a laminated floor installation might give off VOCs. If you suspect discomfort is attributed to such exposure, a more expensive system with carbon filters might offer beneficial relief beyond filters designed to eliminate irritants such as dust and pollen (high efficiency particulate air or HEPA). Of course, some units claim to do both, but consumers should look for performance ratings in each category, depending on their needs and the environment of their home or room.