If you catch a couple episodes of "The Brady Bunch," you can see pressed wood paneling at the height of its splendor. This faux wood is like the hotdog of timber products, taking bits and pieces of logs and whatnot and combining them together. Pressed wood products also include particle board, fiberboard and insulation, which were particularly popular for home construction in the 1970s.
However, the glue that holds the wood particles in place can cause a sticky situation for people. Some products use urea-formaldehyde as a resin, and the U.S. EPA estimates that this is the largest source of formaldehyde emissions indoors, which can increase as well in hotter, more humid conditions [source: EPA].
Formaldehyde exposure can be dangerous, possibly setting off watery eyes, burning eyes and throat, difficulty breathing and asthma attacks. Scientists also know that it can cause cancer in animals, which leaves open a possibility for the same in humans.
Because of construction materials and smaller spaces, trailers and prefab homes often give off higher levels of formaldehyde emissions [source: EPA]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a preliminary report in February 2008 detailing this problem in FEMA trailers along the Gulf Coast occupied by hurricane victims [source: CDC]. The people reported an unusual spike in illnesses suspected to have happened from prolonged formaldehyde exposure. As a result, the agency recommended that the people move out of the trailers.
If you live in an older house with pressed wood paneling or insulation, the good news is that it releases less formaldehyde as it ages [source: EPA]. Using a dehumidifier and air conditioning to keep the indoor environment temperate can help. Today, pressed wood products also are more closely regulated to reduce formaldehyde emissions.