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Is There a FEMA Trailer in Your Man Cave?

What does a man cave have in common with a FEMA trailer?Pool tables, arcade games and big-screen teevee: man caves got a lot of stuff that FEMA trailers don’t.  But when it comes to toxic formaldehyde fumes, your brand new man cave  might have a lot more in common with a FEMA trailer than you planned.

Formaldehyde is found in many conventional household building supplies.  Whether you use them to outfit a trailer or to fancy up your basement, you’re going to get the formaldehyde.

How can you guard your man cave against this scourge?  Hitch a ride below the fold with me and find out.

Is there Formaldehyde in Your Man Cave?

Formaldehyde is everywhere.  It’s a volatile organic compound, like methane.  It’s gassy.  Just like cow farts.  Formaldehyde and other VOC’s are common in paints, thinners, and glues.  That means you get them in carpet backing, pressed wood cabinets, and many other gluey products.

How Does Formaldehyde Make You Sick?

It’s the fumes.  Older trailers and man caves (dens, we used to call them) don’t have this problem, because the gas has long since dissipated down to safe levels. The trouble starts when everything is new.  Add poor ventilation, and you get instant sick building syndrome.

Studies are showing just how sick people can get – especially children – from living in FEMA trailers.  VOC-related health problems can also occur in a new house, or in a newly renovated house.


How to Guard Your Man Cave

If you are just now putting the finishing touches on your brand new man cave, you have two choices: rip everything out and start over, or open the windows.  Many problems can be avoided by ensuring that your man cave is properly ventilated.  Also, don’t hang out down there for long periods when it still has that “new house” smell (that’s the VOC’s at work).

If you are still in the planning stages of building your dream man cave, you’re in luck.  The green building industry is going full steam ahead with safer, healthier products. There are plenty of manly no- or low-VOC choices, such as recycled carpeting and other green flooring.

The same goes for furnishings.  Sofas and other home design products can off-gas VOC’s like crazy.  Find a manufacturer that does no- or low-VOC fabrication.  There are choices to fit every cave instinct, from crazy modern to traditional.

Umm…when can we go back to calling them playrooms?

Image:  The Doodler on flickr under creative commons.


  1. There’s a FABULOUS book called How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office” by B. C. Wolverton. Wolverton is a scientist who had been specifically asked by NASA to research plants that take VOC’s and other nasty chemicals out of the air in closed environments (like a space station, for example), leaving only the fresh air behind. In the book, he shows the results of his testing, which rates 50 common houseplants individually by their ability to remove the chemicals (which chemicals it removes best and how fast/effectively it does it). He also comments on each plant’s hardiness/light/water requirements/ and ease of ability to grow indoors.


  1. […] When they start to wear down – which they regularly do – they need to be stripped with volatile organic compounds before another coat is applied, adding another layer of toxic products to the […]

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