Fall allergy  air filter

Formaldehyde - Environmental Health and Safety Information - Free

Formaldehyde 
Environmental, Health and Safety Information

Back to the Table of Contents page for information on many other subjects!

Introduction

Formaldehyde is common to the chemical industry. The Eleventh Report on Carcinogens classifies it as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" and reported US production at 11.3 billion pounds in 1998. This ranked it 25th overall US chemical production. During both 1994 and 1995, Chemical & Engineering News reported U.S. production at 8.1 billion pounds . This ranked it 24 th overall. International production was over 46 billion pounds in 2004, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). It is well known as a preservative in medical laboratories, as an embalming fluid, and as a sterilizer. Its primary use is in the production of resins and as a chemical intermediate. Urea-formaldehyde and phenol formaldehyde resins are used in foam insulations, as adhesives in the production of particle board and plywood, and in the treating of textiles.

Short-term exposure to formaldehyde can be fatal; however, the odor threshold is low enough that irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes will occur before these levels are achieved. Long-term exposure to low levels of formaldehyde may cause respiratory difficulty, eczema, and sensitization. Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen and has been linked to nasal and lung cancer, and with possible links to brain cancer and leukemia.

Recognition

Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen and has been linked to nasal and lung cancer, and with possible links to brain cancer and leukemia. Short-term exposure to formaldehyde can be fatal. Long-term exposure to low levels of formaldehyde may cause respiratory difficulty, eczema, and sensitization. The following references aid in recognizing formaldehyde hazards in the workplace.

Evaluation

Formaldehyde exposure is most common through gas-phase inhalation. However, it can also occur through liquid-phase skin absorption. Workers can be exposed during direct production, treatment of materials, and production of resins. Health care professionals; pathology and histology technicians; and teachers and students who handle preserved specimens are potentially at high risk. Consumers can receive exposures from building materials, cosmetics, home furnishings, and textiles. The following references provide information about the management of occupational exposures to formaldehyde.

Medical Management Chemical Sampling and Analysis

Controls

Engineering and work practice controls are the first line of defense against formaldehyde hazards. For instances where engineering and work practice controls cannot reduce employee exposure, respirators and personal protective equipment (PPE) are used. The following references provide possible solutions for formaldehyde hazards in the workplace.

Compliance

Exposures to formaldehyde are addressed in specific standards for maritime, construction, and general industries. This page highlights OSHA standards, preambles to final rules (background to final rules), directives (instructions for compliance officers), and standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards) related to formaldehyde.

Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, often referred to as the General Duty Clause, requires employers to "furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees". Section 5(a)(2) requires employers to "comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act".
 
Note: Twenty-four states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.
Highlighted Standards
General Industry ( 29 CFR 1910 ) Shipyard Employment ( 29 CFR 1915 ) Construction ( 29 CFR 1926 )
Preambles to Final Rules Directives Standard Interpretations

Training

This page was updated on 4-Mar-2014