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Exposure to Formaldehyde and Its Potential Human Health Hazards


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A widely used chemical, formaldehyde is normally present in both indoor and outdoor air. The rapid growth of formaldehyde-related industries in the past two decades reflects the result of its increased use in building materials and other commercial sectors. Consequently, formaldehyde is encountered almost every day from large segments of society due to its various sources. Many governments and agencies around the world have thus issued a series of standards to regulate its exposure in homes, office buildings, workshops, public places, and food. In light of the deleterious properties of formaldehyde, this article provides an overview of its market, regulation standards, and human health effects.
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Journal of Environmental Science and
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Exposure to Formaldehyde and Its
Potential Human Health Hazards
Ki-Hyun Kim
, Shamin Ara Jahan
& Jong-Tae Lee
Department of Environment & Energy, Sejong University, Seoul,
Department of Environmental Health, Korea University, Seoul,
Available online: 22 Nov 2011
To cite this article: Ki-Hyun Kim, Shamin Ara Jahan & Jong-Tae Lee (2011): Exposure to Formaldehyde
and Its Potential Human Health Hazards, Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part C, 29:4,
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Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part C, 29:277–299, 2011
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ISSN: 1059-0501 print / 1532-4095 online
DOI: 10.1080/10590501.2011.629972
Exposure to Formaldehyde
and Its Potential Human
Health Hazards
Ki-Hyun Kim,
Shamin Ara Jahan,
and Jong-Tae Lee
Department of Environment & Energy, Sejong University, Seoul, Korea
Department of Environmental Health, Korea University, Seoul, Korea
A widely used chemical, formaldehyde is normally present in both indoor and outdoor
air. The rapid growth of formaldehyde-related industries in the past two decades re-
flects the result of its increased use in building materials and other commercial sectors.
Consequently, formaldehyde is encountered almost every day from large segments of so-
ciety due to its various sources. Many governments and agencies around the world have
thus issued a series of standards to regulate its exposure in homes, office buildings,
workshops, public places, and food. In light of the deleterious properties of formalde-
hyde, this article provides an overview of its market, regulation standards, and human
health effects.
Keywords: formaldehyde; health effects; exposure levels; regulatory guideline
Formaldehyde (HCHO) is an important chemical, widely used not only in
construction (wood processing, furniture, textiles, and carpeting) but also in
various industries [1, 2]. It is also a byproduct of certain natural (e.g., for-
est fires) and anthropogenic activities (e.g., smoking tobacco, burning auto-
motive (and other) fuels, and residential wood burning) [1]. Formaldehyde is
even a component of many consumable household products such as antiseptics,
medicines, cosmetics, dish-washing liquids, fabric softeners, shoe-care agents,
carpet cleaners, glues and adhesives, lacquers, etc. [3, 4]. Its application is ex-
tended further to food preservatives such as some Italian cheeses, dried foods,
and fish [5, 6]. Because of the widespread use of formaldehyde-containing prod-
ucts, it is generally found more abundantly indoors than outdoors. Acute expo-
sure to formaldehyde can, however, cause various health-related issues such
as irritation on various body parts (eyes, nose, throat, and skin). Moreover,
Address correspondence to K.-H. Kim, Department of Environment & Energy, Sejong
University, Seoul 143-747, Korea. E-mail:
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sustained exposure can lead to certain types of cancers (e.g., nasopharyngeal)
and asthma [1, 7–9].
As the world’s formaldehyde industry grows to meet the demands of eco-
nomic expansion, its pollution is perceived to affect millions of people. Due to
growing concern over its deleterious effects, many nations (i.e., Denmark, Swe-
den, the Netherlands, Italy, Finland, Germany, Canada, United States, etc.)
have already adopted or proposed stringent regulations on its concentration
levels (e.g., indoor air quality standards for formaldehyde to limit exposures)
[10]. The primary objective of this review is to summarize the current findings
of its pollution status and the associated health impacts that can arise from its
Formaldehyde is normally present in both indoor and outdoor air due to its
abundant and (almost) ubiquitous sources. Given its economic importance and
widespread use, many people are exposed to formaldehyde during occupational
activities. This involves not only individuals employed in the direct manu-
facture of products containing certain levels of formaldehyde but also those
actively utilizing such products (e.g., construction and decoration). Exposure
occurs primarily by inhaling formaldehyde gas (or vapor) from the air or by ab-
sorbing liquids containing formaldehyde through the skin. Hence, those work-
ing in certain job sectors (e.g., manufacturers of resins, plywood, and particle
board; laboratory technicians; certain health care professionals; fire fighters;
and mortuary employees) are exposed to high doses of formaldehyde relative to
the general public. Table 1 presents the range of formaldehyde concentration
to which workers are commonly exposed under various conditions.
The highest levels of airborne formaldehyde have been detected in indoor
air. According to the Air Pollution Exposure of Adult Urban Populations in
Europe (EXPOLIS) study conducted in Helsinki, Finland in 1997, the mean
formaldehyde values of personal exposure, indoor residential areas, outdoor
residential areas, and workplaces were 21.4, 33.3, 2.60, and 12.0 parts per
billion (ppb), respectively [11]. Although formaldehyde can be released from
various indoor sources, many construction materials (e.g., medium-density
fiber board, particleboard, and plywood), which contain phenol–formaldehyde
or urea–formaldehyde resin glues, and glass wool insulation (with similar
types of binders) are known to emit large quantities of formaldehyde [12].
Formaldehyde can also result from gas-phase ozonolysis of indoor alkenes
(often monoterpenes), which occur in numerous household products (e.g.,
air fresheners, fragrances products, etc.) [13, 14]. Electronic equipments
such as photocopiers and laser printers are also reported to release certain
quantities of formaldehyde [15]. The level of its emission from the indoor
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Human Health Hazards of Formaldehyde
Table 1: Selected Case Studies of Formaldehyde Exposure Levels for the Workers o f
Various Professions
Exposure range Study
Profession (ppm) location Reference
Chemical workers 0.04 to 0.4 Turin, Italy [144]
Furniture workers 0.16 to 0.4 Copenhagen,
Plywood, particle board
production workers
0.28 to 3.48 Hawaii, USA [146]
Office workers 0.07 to 0.13 Tainan, Taiwan [147]
Laboratory technicians 0.11 to 0.27 Ankara, Turkey [148]
Electrician/mechanic 0.06 to .18 Massachusetts,
Cleaner 0.15 to 0.21 Denver, USA [150]
Firefighter 0.10 to 2.2 Arizona, USA [151]
Mortuary employees 0.5 to 1.5 Utah, USA [152]
sources can be affected by such factors as area of exposed boards, temperature,
relative humidity, frequency of ventilation, etc. [16]. As formaldehyde emission
can proceed via evaporation (methylene glycol) or initial hydrolysis, its diffu-
sion processes are likely to exert a direct influence on its emission strengths
[17]. Some examples of its release rates per unit surface area (µgm
) are
listed for a number of consumer products in Table 2.
Note that the level of exposure to formaldehyde is typically lower in com-
mon indoor places relative to occupational conditions. Hence, a great number
of people are routinely exposed to low levels of formaldehyde in their daily lives
[6]. The average outdoor concentrations reported in urban areas of the United
States were in the range of 11 to 20 ppb [18]. IARC [19] generalized that its
outdoor concentrations in urban environments ranged from 0.08 to 16.3 ppb,
Table 2: Release Rates of Formaldehyde Per Unit Surface Area (µgm
Consumer Products
Emission rate Study
Products (µg m-2 hr-1) location Reference
Bare urea–formaldehyde
wood products
9 to 1578 Gdynia, Poland [153]
Coated ureaformaldehyde
wood products
1 to 461 Gdynia, Poland [153]
Permanent press fabrics 4 2 to 214 Seoul, South Korea [154]
Decorative laminates 4 to 50 Seoul, South Korea [154]
Fiber glass products 16 to 32 Seoul, South Korea [154]
Paper grocery bags and
0.5 to 0.6 California, USA [155]
Latex paint 326 to 854 California, USA [155]
Nail polish 20 to 700 California, USA [155]
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depending on local conditions. Its sources of outdoor environment are also di-
verse enough to include (1) power plants, manufacturing facilities, (2) inciner-
ators, (3) automobile engines, and (4) the burning of forests and manufactured
wood products [20–22].
Formaldehyde is one of the most commercially important aldehydes. It is used
most extensively in the production of resins with urea, phenol and melamine,
and polyacetal resins [23]. Formaldehyde-based resins are also used as adhe-
sives and impregnating resins in the manufacture of particle-board, plywood,
furniture, and other wood products [24]. They are also used in the textile,
leather, rubber, and cement industries [19]. Further uses include binders for
foundry sand, stone wool, and glass wool mats in insulating materials, abra-
sive paper, brake linings, dyes, tanning agents, precursors of dispersion and
plastics, extraction agents, crop protection agents, animal feeds, perfumes,
vitamins, flavorings, and drugs [19, 23, 25, 26]. Formaldehyde is also used as
an antimicrobial agent in many cosmetics products, including soaps, sham-
poos, hair preparations, deodorants, lotions, make-up, mouthwashes, and nail
products [23].
As the global consumption of formaldehyde mainly occurs in the form of
construction/remodeling activity, vehicle and furniture production, and origi-
nal equipment manufacture (OEM), its market demand can be influenced by
general economic conditions to a degree. For instance, annual production of
formaldehyde in the United States recorded about 1 million metric tons (0.9
million tons) in 1960 and underwent 5-fold increases by 2006 [27]. As of 2009,
the amount reached 21 million metric tons [28]. This kind of situation is not
much different in other countries. For instance, the production and consump-
tion of formaldehyde was 580,000 tons in Korea in 2000, and its demand is
increasing every year [29]. The production of formaldehyde-based resins in
Korea was about 207,000 tons in 2005, which was equivalent to 39% of the to-
tal adhesive production. Moreover, a dominant proportion (e.g., 75% or 155,000
tons) of formaldehyde-based resin adhesives is represented by those produced
in the form of UF resin adhesives [30].
World consumption of formaldehyde is forecasted to grow at an average
annual rate of 4% from 2009 through 2014 as a result of increased pro-
duction of wood panels, laminates, pentaerythritol, etc. [28]. Internationally,
152 formaldehyde suppliers in 25 countries, 59 paraformaldehyde suppliers
in 15 countries, and 21 trioxane suppliers in 9 countries were identified in
2009 [31–33]. Because of issues associated with transportation and storage of
formaldehyde, its production is generally made very near the site of final con-
sumption. Therefore, its international trade is considerably low, accounting for
less than 2% of worldwide production [27].
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Human Health Hazards of Formaldehyde
An extensive body of literature exists on both the acute and chronic health ef-
fects of formaldehyde exposure. Formaldehyde released from external sources
enters the human body either via inhalation of its gaseous form or via inges-
tion of substances [1, 19, 34, 35]. There is also some possibility of intake via
dermal absorption [34]. Once absorbed, almost every tissue in the body has the
ability to break down formaldehyde [36]. It is usually converted to a nontoxic
chemical called formate, which is excreted through the urine [35] and can be
exhaled via conversion to carbon dioxide. It can also be broken down so that
the body can use it to make larger molecules needed in human tissues. Other-
wise, it can be attached to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or to protein in body
[35]. A summary of the acute and chronic health effects due to formaldehyde
transmission is provided next.
4.1. Effects Due to Acute Exposure
Formaldehyde is known to induce acute poisoning and cause irritation, as
well as other immunotoxic effects. It is a highly reactive chemical that readily
reacts with biological tissues, particularly the mucous tissues lining the respi-
ratory tract and the eyes [35]. Mucous tissues are moist and characterized by
a thin-walled cellular (epithelial) layer that is highly susceptible to chemical
irritation [20]. As a result of its reactivity, inhaled formaldehyde is rapidly and
almost entirely absorbed by the mucous tissues lining t he upper-respiratory
tract. Hence, if supplied at low or medium concentrations, it cannot penetrate
farther than the major bronchi of the respiratory tract [34].
4.1.1. Irritation
Acute mucus membrane irritation is the most common adverse effect of
formaldehyde exposure, often leading to dry skin, dermatitis, tearing eyes,
sneezing, and coughing [37]. Serious formaldehyde exposure can often re-
sult in eye conjunctivitis and nasal and pharyngeal diseases, while increasing
the likelihood of dangerous conditions such as laryngospasm and pulmonary
edema [38–41]. In a study conducted in China, 66 workers in the chemical in-
dustry exposed occupationally to formaldehyde were reported to suffer from
congestion in the cornea, nasal membrane, and pharynx [42]. In other stud-
ies, volunteers exposed to formaldehyde in the range of 0.25 to 3.0 ppm ex-
perienced eye, nose, and throat irritation [37]. Kulle [37] reported that eye
irritation was the dominant symptom with a linear trend at a dose range of
0.5–3 ppm. Although no effect was observed below 0.5 ppm, 21% experienced
mild eye irritation at 1 ppm. One Finish study reported that formaldehyde can
cause sensory irritation more effectively than the mixture of common volatile
organic compounds (VOCs) [43].
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4.1.2. Acute Poisoning
Acute formaldehyde poisoning can result from inhaling its fumes or from
swallowing its liquid phase. The severity of its poisoning depends on the
inhaled (or ingested) amount. Acute ingestion of formaldehyde will lead to
(1) irritation and burns of the mouth and throat, (2) burns and ulceration of
the gastrointestinal tract, (3) chest or abdominal pain, (4) nausea, (5) vomiting,
(6) diarrhea, and (7) gastrointestinal hemorrhage [44–45]. Formaldehyde in-
gestion may also result in metabolic acidosis, tachypnoea, jaundice, protein-
uria, haematuria, and acute renal failure [45]. A total of 17 employees in
a pharmaceutical company who continuously inhaled formaldehyde vapors
showed symptoms of irritated eyes, tearing, sneezing, coughing, chest conges-
tion, fever, heartburn, lethargy, and loss of appetite [46]. As a result of this
poisoning, some even experienced vomiting, abdominal pain, and nodal tachy-
cardia [46]. In another study, it was found that an adult experienced abdominal
pain, bloody stools, hematemesis, and a high serum alanine-amino transferase
(ALT) after imbibing formaldehyde contaminated water [47]. It was also re-
ported that symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and dizziness can be found after
eating formaldehyde preserved fish [48, 49].
4.1.3. Dermal Allergies
Skin sensitization following dermal exposure to formaldehyde has been
well documented [50]. Human skin sensitivity to formaldehyde has been asso-
ciated with many situations of dermal exposure, including contact with forma-
lin, formaldehyde-containing resins, formaldehyde-treated fabrics, formalde-
hyde containing household products, facial tissues, etc. [51–54]. Formaldehyde
has been widely reported to cause dermal allergic reactions in occupation-
ally exposed nurses, doctors, and dentists, as well as cosmetic workers, textile
workers, and construction workers [54–56].
Four of 10 operators of chemical melting devices in a phenol-formaldehyde
factory experienced dermatitis after occupational contact with formaldehyde
[57]. In another instance, at a mushroom farm where formaldehyde was
sprayed to make the products whiter, two-thirds of the employees exposed at
0.49–3 ppm range experienced dermatitis on their arms and forearms [58]. The
symptoms of these employees included red spots, swelling, irritation, pain, and
burning sensations.
4.1.4. Allergic Asthma
Asthma induced by inhaled formaldehyde may be classified as an irritant-
induced asthma, as short exposures to high level formaldehyde are identified to
cause a sudden onset of asthmatic symptoms called “Reactive airways dysfunc-
tion syndrome” (RADS) [59, 60]. Because of its airway-irritating properties, it
may also aggravate preexisting asthma [60]. It was reported that the likelihood
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Human Health Hazards of Formaldehyde
for the development of allergic asthma increases proportionately with level of
indoor formaldehyde concentration, especially when levels exceed 0.08 ppm
[61]. An Australian study also found that indoor formaldehyde levels, when ex-
ceeding 0.09 ppm, significantly increased likelihood of asthma in children [62].
A study conducted in France found that inhalation of formaldehyde at 1 ppm
level resulted in enhanced sensitivity to other allergens in asthmatic patients
[9]. McGwin et al. [63] also confirmed a significant positive association between
formaldehyde exposure and childhood asthma. As such, formaldehyde-induced
asthma may as well be the result of an allergic response. Although some stud-
ies investigated immunoglobulin G (IgG) and/or immunoglobulin E (IgE) an-
tibodies to formaldehyde/human serum albumin conjugates, the results were
not consistent [60, 64, 65]. Kim and his team [65] did not find any correlation
between the severity of asthma (and IgE levels) and formaldehyde concentra-
tions in Korean medical students.
4.2. Effect Due to Chronic Exposure
Long-term exposure to elevated levels of formaldehyde, especially in the
occupational setting, has been designated as the cause of irritation and pain
such as upper and lower airway irritation, eye irritation, degenerative dis-
eases, coughing, wheezing, body sores, chest pain, abdominal pain, and loss
of appetite [66–68]. Long-term occupational formaldehyde exposure is also re-
ported to be responsible for such serious and chronic health effects as inflam-
matory and hyperplastic changes of the nasal mucosa, pharyngeal congestion,
chronic pharyngitis, chronic rhinitis, loss of olfactory functioning, lacrima-
tion and cornea disorder, heartburn, tremor, lethargy, etc. [67, 69, 70]. Rager
et al. [71] reported that formaldehyde can alter micro-RNA patterns associ-
ated with regulation of gene expression, potentially leading to the initiation
of a variety of diseases. In a pathologic study conducted by Bono et al. [72],
it was found that exposure to formaldehyde levels above 66 µgm
may lead
to oxidative stress as evidenced by the increased levels of malondialdehyde-
deoxyguanosine adduct in leukocytes, a biomarker of oxidative stress and lipid
4.2.1. Neurotoxicity
Chronic exposure to formaldehyde can be responsible for the symptoms of
neurasthenia which include headaches, dizziness, sleep disorders, and memory
loss. Many reports indicate that chronic exposure to formaldehyde increased
the chances of headache and dizziness by 30%–60% [73–75]. As such, formalde-
hyde appears to have neurotoxic characteristics with systemic toxic effects. It
is thus hypothesized that inhalation of formaldehyde, during the early postna-
tal period, can cause some neurological diseases with aging [76].
It was also recognized that apart from age and gender, environmental
tobacco smoking (ETS) is perhaps the most consistent nongenetic risk factor
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for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) [19]; it is a fatal, neurodegenerative
disease caused by the degeneration of motor neurons system that controls
voluntary muscle movement [77]. To examine the association between ETS
and ALS, Wang et al. [78] analyzed data obtained from five different long-term
studies involving a total of more than 1.1 million participants; among those
participants, 832 people were found as ALS patients. In another investigation
conducted by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II, more
than 1 million individuals were examined over time. Based on this study, it was
concluded that individuals who reported formaldehyde exposure in the work-
place (e.g., beauticians, pharmacists, morticians, chemists, laboratory techni-
cians, physicians, veterinarians, dentists, firefighters, photographers, printers,
and nurses) had a 34% higher rate of ALS than the no-exposure group [79].
4.2.2. Cellular Change
Inhalation exposure to formaldehyde causes a number of cellular effects
depending on its concentration and exposure duration. In short-term studies, it
was found that formaldehyde caused cell proliferation in the nasal epithelium
at doses of 2 ppm and above [80, 81]. Cell proliferation is a part of the restora-
tive process to repair cellular damage. In chronic studies, cellular effects, i.e.,
rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal mucosa), epithelial dysplasia (displacement
of one cell type with another one), and squamous metaplasia (replacement of
normal mucosal cells with squamous cells) developed in the nasal cavities of
rats [82] and monkeys [83] after exposures for 12 months and 26 weeks, re-
spectively to 2–3 ppm of formaldehyde. After 24 months of exposure, the inci-
dence of squamous metaplasia in rats increased to nearly 100% [83]. Lacroix
et al. [84] observed abnormal nasal mucosa and nasal secretion on the clinical
assessment of 76 children who had been exposed to urea-formaldehyde foam
insulation. In another human study, Boysen et al. [85] reported that people
who were occupationally exposed to formaldehyde in the range of 0.1–1.1 ppm
showed loss of ciliary activity with the development of squamous metaplasia
from 4 to 9 years. They also found that 25% of the exposed group had swollen
or dry changes of the nasal mucosa. This was characterized histologically as
loss of cilia and goblet cells, squamous metaplasia, and even mild dysplasia.
The mucociliary system represents an important defense mechanism in the
removal of foreign particles and bacteria that enter the upper-respiratory sys-
tem. A reduction in the efficient operation of this defense mechanism, including
formation of squamous metaplasia by exposure to formaldehyde, may increase
the risk of persons exposed to formaldehyde to develop infection and other res-
piratory diseases.
4.2.3. Pulmonary Function Damage
In humans, when exposed repetitively under occupational ( or residential)
conditions, formaldehyde has led to symptoms associated with irritation of the
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Human Health Hazards of Formaldehyde
upper-respiratory tract and eyes at concentrations between 0.1–3 ppm [86].
Previous studies on repeated human exposure to formaldehyde showed lit-
tle or no convincing evidence of any adverse effects on pulmonary function.
One study of pulmonary function showed small changes (less than 5%–10%)
compared with reference values (exposures in these studies ranged from less
than 1 to about 3.5 ppm) [87]. Kriebel and his team [88] studied 24 physi-
cal therapy students, who were exposed to formaldehyde in breathing zone
at 0.49–0.93 ppm range (during dissection for 3 hr per week over 10 weeks).
The intensity of symptoms from exposure increased in the descending order of
eyes (+43%), nose (+21%), breathing (+20%), throat (+15%), and cough (+5%).
Akbar-Khanzadeh and Mlynek [89] also studied 50 nonsmoking first-year med-
ical students exposed to 1.36–2.58 ppm levels of formaldehyde in the breathing
zone. The results showed 82% of the exposed group to suffer from nose irrita-
tion, 76% eye irritation (18% wore goggles), 36% throat irritation, and 14% air-
way irritation. Similarly, factory workers chronically exposed to formaldehyde
at 2.51 ppm levels experienced a decrease in pulmonary ventilation, relative
to a control group [87]. Likewise, with increased exposure over time, ampli-
fied pulmonary damage was seen along with more abnormalities in t he small
airways and higher resistance to pulmonary ventilation [67, 70, 86].
4.2.4. Hematotoxicity
Hematotoxicity is defined as toxicity caused by chemical exposure to the
blood and hematopoietic system, often resulting in decreased blood cell counts.
It was demonstrated that long-term exposure of formaldehyde can decrease the
number of white blood cells and possibly lower platelet and hemoglobin counts
[74, 90, 91]. A report by Huang et al. [92] revealed that a previously healthy
woman experienced lower than normal counts of white blood cells, red blood
cells, platelet, and hemoglobin, just after 3 months of moving into a newly
remodeled apartment. The formaldehyde levels in that apartment unit were
about 4 times higher than the national standard set for indoor environment
in China (0.08 ppm). However, such an abnormal pattern was not apparent
for other chemicals (e.g., benzene, toluene, etc.) measured concurrently [93].
In a study targeting occupational exposure (i.e., nurses in hospital), it was
concluded that an inverse correlation between white blood cells and formalde-
hyde concentration is t he best indicator of exposure among all the recognized
outcomes [94]. Contrary to this finding, another study reported no signifi-
cant differences in WBC and Hb in potential exposure groups such as wood
workers [73].
4.2.5. Reproductive Toxicity
The potential role of formaldehyde as teratogen and its impacts on hu-
man reproduction are still a matter of scientific controversy. Until recently,
very limited research has been conducted to specifically address s uch aspects
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of formaldehyde. However, a few studies found menstrual disorder and dys-
menorrhea in women who were occupationally exposed to formaldehyde. Zhou
et al. [95] found that long-term formaldehyde exposure at a dose of 2.46 mg
should have a harmful effect on the reproductive function of male rats
with a build up of oxidative stress. It is interesting to note that triphlorethol-A
can exert a cytoprotective effect in V79-4 cells against formaldehyde-induced
oxidative stress by inhibiting the mitochondria-mediated caspase-dependent
apoptotic pathway [ 96].
In a food additive factory, more than 70% of the female employees ex-
posed to formaldehyde through inhalation (0.67–4.5 ppm) reported abnormal
menstrual cycles, while only 17% reported such occurrences in the control
group [97]. Likewise, anatomy teachers who were occupationally exposed to
formaldehyde levels around 0.41 to 3.2 ppm also reported painful menstrua-
tion (dysmenorrhea) and increased menstrual flow (with abnormal menstrual
cycles) [75]. In a case-control study, a significant association between spon-
taneous abortion and formalin exposure (odds-ratio 3.5, 95% CI 1.1–11.2,
P = 0.05) was found in Finnish women who worked in pathology or histol-
ogy laboratories for more than 3 days per week [98]. Another study focusing on
female wood workers reported significantly lower fecundability density ratios
(FDR: a ratio of average incidence densities of pregnancies) of 0.64 with 95% CI
(0.43–0.92) in women exposed to high formaldehyde levels, even after adjust-
ments for smoking and alcohol consumption [99]. It is, however, very hard to
find any studies focusing on such effect with respect to the male reproductive
4.2.6. Genotoxicity
It was reported that formaldehyde exposure can induce DNA and chromo-
somal damage in human peripheral blood cells [100–103]. A line of evidence
indicated that formaldehyde itself (not a metabolite) is capable of directly re-
acting with DNA and producing genotoxic effects on portal-of-entry tissues, es-
pecially after exceeding biotransformation capacities [104, 105]. Chinese work-
ers exposed to formaldehyde showed an increase in DNA damage in peripheral
lymphocytes, when measured by single cell gel electrophoresis (Comet assay)
[106, 107]. Several studies have also shown that short-term (8 weeks) exposure
to high levels of formaldehyde (0.41–0.80 ppm) increased micronuclei (MN) fre-
quency in nasal epithelial cells [108, 109], while long-term (1 year) exposure
increased MN frequency in lymphocytes [110, 111].
In a Portuguese case-control study, sister-chromatid exchange and MN
frequencies in peripheral lymphocytes were significantly higher in exposed
subjects (mean formaldehyde level of 0.5 ppm) than the control group [112].
In a recent review study, increased levels of CA were also reported in the
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Human Health Hazards of Formaldehyde
peripheral blood lymphocytes of children exposed to formaldehyde in prefab-
ricated schools [113]. Environment Canada/Health Canada [114] and WHO
[115] stated formaldehyde as weakly genotoxic, with effects most likely to be
observed in vivo in cells from tissues or organs after the initial contact.
4.2.7. Carcinogenesis
The possibility of formaldehyde as a carcinogen has been tested through
diverse transmission routes—inhalation, oral administration, topical applica-
tion, and subcutaneous injections in rodents. The findings of nasal tumors in
rodents exposed to high levels of airborne formaldehyde led to a concern about
its carcinogenic effects i n occupationally exposed workers [116–118]. Based on
comprehensive researches and large-scale human studies conducted interna-
tionally, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified
formaldehyde as a human carcinogen that can cause nasopharyngeal cancer
[104]. According to this classification, formaldehyde is a probable human car-
cinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure. The US
National Toxicology Program (NTP) reported formaldehyde as a known human
carcinogen in its 12th Report on Carcinogens [119].
There is sufficient evidence for a linkage between formaldehyde expo-
sure and nasopharyngeal cancer, nasal and paranasal cancer, and leukemias
[120–122]. Schwilk et al. [123] reported the possible link between formalde-
hyde and increased risks of leukemia, of particular myeloid leukemia (relative
risk = 1.53; 95% confidence interval = 1.11 to 2.21; P = 0.005; 14 studies). In-
creased incidences of leukemia have also been reported in several occupational
epidemiologic studies [124–126]. In a case-control study on funeral industry
workers, an association was apparent between increasing formaldehyde expo-
sure and mortality from myeloid leukemia [125]. In another previous study
covering 25,619 industrial workers exposed to formaldehyde occupationally,
it was possible to find an increased risk of death due to leukemia, partic-
ularly myeloid leukemia [127]. In a review based on several meta-analyses,
Zhang et al. [100] concluded a certain linkage between formaldehyde expo-
sure and myeloid leukemia (ML). A cohort study of 11,039 textile workers also
found a certain relationship between the duration of formaldehyde exposure
and leukemia-related deaths [124]. In contrast, another cohort study consist-
ing of 14,014 British industry workers (with an average follow-up period of 11
years) was not able to draw a significant association between the two factors
[128]. Likewise, their possible linkage supported by the National Cancer In-
stitute (NCI) with an aid of both the epidemiologic and the experimental data
was also questioned on the basis of an external comparison of relative risk
trend [129].
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In many occupational cohort studies, there have also been many contra-
dictory findings of formaldehyde effects on cancers of the trachea, bronchus,
lung, buccal cavity, or pharynx [130–132]. Lu et al. [133] found strong evidence
that can support a genotoxic and cytotoxic mode of action for the carcinogene-
sis of inhaled formaldehyde in respiratory nasal epithelium. Meta-analyses for
epidemiological aspects of formaldehyde exposure were not able to reveal any
increased risk of cancer in the oral cavity or lung [134–136]. As formaldehyde
undergoes rapid chemical changes immediately after absorption, some scien-
tists believe that it is unlikely to exert influences on organ sites beyond the
upper respiratory tract.
Occupational and environmental exposure to formaldehyde is a public health
concern that needs to be addressed globally. The advisories, regulations, and
guidelines regarding formaldehyde exposure are summarized in Table 3. The
European Union has adopted a directive that imposes concentration limits
for formaldehyde and paraformaldehyde in cosmetics. These substances are
permitted at a maximal concentration of 0.2% by weight or volume [137]. In
Quebec, Canada, the Regulation Concerning Occupational Health and Safety
established its permissible exposure value in air at 2 ppm as the ceiling (the
value that must never be exceeded during any length of duration whatsoever)
[138]. Guidelines for ambient formaldehyde levels in living spaces have been
set in several countries in the range of 0.05 to 0.4 ppm, with a preference to
0.1 ppm [10].
The US NTP included formaldehyde as an item under consideration for the
12th Report on Carcinogens [139]. In 2006, the IARC reclassified formaldehyde
from Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans) to Group 1 (carcinogenic to
humans) [140]. The EPA has classified formaldehyde as a B1 compound, prob-
able human carcinogen, on the basis of limited evidence in humans but with
sufficient evidence in animals [120]. According to the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration, permissible exposure limits for occupational formalde-
hyde exposure are 0.75 ppm at or below an 8-hour time-weighted average and
the short-term exposure limit of 2 ppm [141]. The EPA regulates formalde-
hyde under the Clean Air Act by designating it as a hazardous air pollutant
[142]. The Food and Drug Administration identifies formaldehyde as an in-
direct food additive for use only as a component of adhesives [143]. The food
additive, formaldehyde, if used in accordance with specified conditions, should
be permitted only in the feed and drinking water of animals [143].
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Human Health Hazards of Formaldehyde
Table 3: Regulations, Advisories, and Guidelines Applicable to Formaldehyde
Country or agency (ppm) Type Reference
Australia 1 TWA
Belgium 2 Ceiling
Brazil 1.6 Ceiling [10]
China 0.5 Ceiling [10]
Canada 2 Ceiling [138]
Denmark 0.3 STEL [156]
Finland 0.3 TWA [10]
1 Ceiling [10]
France 0.5 TWA [157]
Ger many 0.3 TWA [10]
0.6 Ceiling [10]
Hong Kong 0.3 Ceiling [10]
Ireland 2 STEL [10]
Japan 0.5 TWA [10]
Malaysia 0.3 Ceiling [10]
Mexico 2 Ceiling [10]
Netherlands 2 STEL [10]
New Zealand 1 Ceiling [10]
Norway 1 Ceiling [158]
Executive (2002) [133]
Poland 1 Ceiling [10]
South Africa 2 STEL [10]
South Korea 2 STEL [10]
Spain 0.33 STEL [10]
Switzerland 0.6 STEL [10]
United Kingdom 2 STEL [10]
United States [10]
American Conference
of Government
Industrial Hygienists
NIOSH 0.016 TWA [161]
0.1 Ceiling
Occupational Safety
and Health
0.75 TWA [141]
Protection Agency
0.7 TLV [162]
TWA, time-weighted average;
STEL, short-term exposure limit;
Ceiling, the value that should
never be exceeded during any length of time; and
TLV, threshold limit value.
As the most commercially important aldehyde, formaldehyde is in great
demand with its global consumption rate growing rapidly with the in-
creased production of wood panels, laminates, pentaerythritol, etc. Exposure to
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formaldehyde can occur via inhalation of its gas (or vapor) form or absorption
of liquid form through the skin. Hence, occupational exposure to formaldehyde
is usually quite high relative to the general public.
Formaldehyde has been widely reported to cause dermal allergic reactions
in occupationally exposed personnel. Although formaldehyde has been classi-
fied as the cause of an irritant-induced asthma, several studies have yet been
unable to find any strong correlation between the severity of asthma (and IgE
levels) and formaldehyde concentrations. Nevertheless, continual exposure to
formaldehyde is suspected to cause various symptoms (i.e., neurasthenia, up-
per and lower airway irritation, inflammatory and hyperplastic changes of
the nasal mucosa, coughing, wheezing, expectoration, pharyngeal congestion,
chronic pharyngitis, chronic rhinitis, loss of olfactory functioning, lacrimation,
cornea disorders, hematotoxicity, heartburn, tremors, body sores, chest pain,
lethargy, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite). Although formaldehyde is con-
sidered carcinogenic by some agencies (e.g., IARC, NTP, etc.), epidemiological
studies have not been able to provide sufficient evidence to fully support their
propositions. Several studies concluded that biological evidence is yet inade-
quate to support the relationship between leukemia and formaldehyde expo-
sure. At present, it is likely that low levels (<1 ppm) of formaldehyde can have
only a minimal (or nonexistant) carcinogenic potential on human cancer risk.
As such, further research is necessary to precisely describe its carcinogenicity,
especially with respect to the human body. However, in order to protect the gen-
eral population against acute and chronic sensory irritation due to formalde-
hyde, regulation agencies of different countries should put collaborated efforts
efficiently to establish more reliable guidelines for its control under various
This study was supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF)
grant funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST)
(No. 2009-0093848).
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... Moreover, FA is permitted to use in some varieties of Italian cheese as a bacteriostatic agent (Liteplo et al., 2002). FA is a useful and important chemical to the global economy and uses in many industries i.e., construction (wood processing, furniture, textile, carpeting), consumable household product industries (antiseptics, medicines, cosmetics, dish-washing liquids, glues, lacquer), etc. (Kim, Jahan, et al., 2011). The illegal addition of FA is one of the major adulterations occurs in different types of food i.e., fish and seafood (Mohanty et al., 2018), fruits and vegetables (Wahed et al., 2016), fruit juice (Kundu et al., 2019), mushrooms (Mason et al., 2004), and milk (Veríssimo et al., 2020) to extend the shelf life. ...
... FA is present in the environment via different routes, i.e., natural (forest fire) and anthropogenic activities (smoking tobacco, wood burning) (Kim, Jahan, et al., 2011). The concentration of FA in the environment depends on atmospheric conditions such as temperature, humidity, and wind (Delikhoon et al., 2018). ...
... Acute mucus membrane irritation (nose, eye, and throat) burns and ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract, chest or abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal bleeding are the most common adverse effect of FA exposure. The long-term exposure may cause serious and chronic health effects i.e., neurotoxicity, cellular change, pulmonary function damage, hematotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, genotoxicity, and carcinogenesis (Kim, Jahan, et al., 2011). Research has shown that the FA has some relationship with Alzheimer's disease with sufferers urine having a higher level of FA than controls (Li et al., 2008). ...
Fish is an excellent source for high-quality protein, good fat (omega 3 and 6), vitamin (B, D), and minerals (Ca, P, Zn, I, Mg, K, etc.) and can lower blood pressure and help reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The illegal addition of formaldehyde (FA) to extend the shelf life is a common problem reported in many countries and the FA is classified as a group 1 human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). There is also the natural formation pathway of FA in fish and seafood. This article summarises the FA levels in fish and seafood (from 2000), formation pathways, health risk assessment, regulations, and analytical techniques to measure FA. It is shown that the reported FA levels are frequently higher than the recognised safety level of 5 mg/kg. This review highlights the requirement of a broad scale effort to measure the indigenous FA levels in fish and ensure that this can be differentiated by the illegal addition of FA. This will allow the strengthening of regulations and allow monitoring to detect and deter the practice of illegal addition of FA to fish and seafood.
... However, for many years, formaldehyde has been also applied in industries mainly with antimicrobial action. Therefore, it is commonly used as a fungicide, germicide, disinfectant, and preservative in medical laboratories [1,2]. Formaldehyde is also widely used as a chemical solvent, raw material for the production of resins, wood fixatives as well as paper and pulp production, cosmetics, food, and the textile industry. ...
... Formaldehyde is toxic for people, causes irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, headaches, nausea, drowsiness, and allergic skin reactions [2][3][4]. It is considered by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a carcinogen as well as classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable human carcinogen (the EPA's B1 classification). ...
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A thin-film solid-phase microextraction method with a sorbent composed of a deep eutectic solvent was developed for the preconcentration of formaldehyde from river and lake water samples. Four new deep eutectic solvents (DESs) were synthesized, each in molar ratios 1:1, 1:2, and 1:3. Among prepared compounds, the greatest efficiency in the proposed method of preconcentration of formaldehyde derivatized with Nash reagent was demonstrated by DES-3 consisting of benzyldimethylhexadecylammonium chloride and lauric acid, in a molar ratio of 1:3. For the proposed method, the parameters affecting the extraction efficiency of formaldehyde were optimized (including the choice of DES-based sorbent and desorption solvent as well as the sample volume and pH, the salting-out effect, the extraction time, and the desorption time). Under optimal conditions, the proposed method achieved good precision between 3.3% (for single sorbent) and 4.8% (for sorbent-to-sorbent) as well as good recovery ranging from 78.0 to 99.1%. The limits of detection and quantitation were 0.15 ng mL−1 and 0.50 ng mL−1, respectively. The enrichment factor was equal to 178. The developed method was successfully applied to determine formaldehyde in environmental water samples.
... Examples of construction materials that are hazardous for human health are formaldehyde emissions from fibre-board materials, the release of asbestos from suspended ceilings and fibres from glass insulation material. [27][28][29] Similarly, poor design or inadequate maintenance or engineering can have social implications, such as limiting privacy, and can even compromise structural integrity, for example, older units constructed from prefabricated concrete panels, and new build developments and building renovations that use highly flammable cladding. 30 31 Inadequate waterproofing and ventilation, damp and mould are other common housing condition defects. ...
Recent crises have underscored the importance that housing has in sustaining good health and, equally, its potential to harm health. Considering this and building on Howden-Chapman's early glossary of housing and health and the WHO Housing and Health Guidelines, this paper introduces a range of housing and health-related terms, reflecting almost 20 years of development in the field. It defines key concepts currently used in research, policy and practice to describe housing in relation to health and health inequalities. Definitions are organised by three overarching aspects of housing: affordability (including housing affordability stress (HAS) and fuel poverty), suitability (including condition, accessibility and sustainable housing) and security (including precarious housing and homelessness). Each of these inter-related aspects of housing can be either protective of, or detrimental to, health. This glossary broadens our understanding of the relationship between housing and health to further promote interdisciplinarity and strengthen the nexus between these fields.
... The short-term exposure to formaldehyde at a low concentration (0.1 -0.5 ppm) can cause acute symptomatic responses such as upper respiratory and eye irritation, numbness, and skin allergies (Brenner, 2014;OSHA 2007). Long-term and prolonged exposure to formaldehyde at high concentrations (0.5-2 ppm) can also affect the nervous, immune, and reproductive systems (Kim et al. 2011). According to IARC (2009), formaldehyde is considered a high-risk substance due to its carcinogenicity and genotoxicity in humans. ...
Full-text available
Mainly embalming fixative contains formaldehyde which is classified as a carcinogen. People who work with cadavers have been at higher risk of cancer after formaldehyde exposure. We have formulated a less-formalin fixative (contained 3.6% formaldehyde,23.8% ethanol, 15% glycerin, and 0.2% phenol in the water) for preserving cadavers. Therefore, the objective of the present study was to evaluate the level of atmospheric formaldehyde indoors and the breathing exposure of medical students during dissection classes. We also analyzed the pulmonary parameters and effects of formaldehyde. The levels of atmospheric formaldehyde indoors and personal breathing exposure were sampled during anatomy dissection classes (musculoskeletal system, respiratory system, and abdominopelvic organ system) using sorbent tubes with air sampling pumps. Samples were then analyzed using Gas Chromatography with Flame Ionization Detector (GC-FID). The mean level of formaldehyde indoor air among the three classes was 0.518 ± 0.156 ppm whereas the formaldehyde level in the personal breathing zone was 0.956±0.408 ppm, which exceeded the recommended exposure standards of international agencies, including NIOSH agency and PEL of Thailand legislation. The laboratory had high humidity, high room temperature, and poor air ventilation. There was a significant difference in FVC, FEV1, and PEF (p < 0.05) between the sexes of students. Comparison pulmonary parameters between students and instructors showed that all parameters of the pulmonary function test had no significant differences. General fatigue and burnings of eyes and nose associated with strong odor were the most common symptoms reported during the dissection classes. The modified embalming fixative was used less formalin with ethanol-glycerin mixture, and it was suitable for the study of medical students, with few side effects of respiratory problems. However, the modified exhaust ventilation with local table-exhaust ventilation and heating-ventilation-air conditioning system performance were urgent issues for reducing levels of formaldehyde indoor air in the dissection room.
... It is a ubiquitous chemical compound in outdoor and indoor environments. FM is a toxic and carcinogenic air contaminant with adverse health effects to humans (Bernstein et al., 1984;Kim et al., 2011). In the open atmosphere, FM is mainly formed by the oxidation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs; Kefauver et al., 2014). ...
Full-text available
Formaldehyde (FM) and glyoxal (GL) are important atmospheric species of indoor and outdoor environments. They are either directly emitted in the atmosphere, or they are formed through the oxidation of organic compounds by indoor and/or outdoor atmospheric oxidants. Despite their importance, the real-time monitoring of these compounds with soft ionization mass spectrometric techniques, e.g., proton transfer mass spectrometry (PTR-MS), remains problematic and is accompanied by low sensitivity. In this study, we evaluate the performance of a multi-ion selected ion flow tube mass spectrometer (SIFT-MS) to monitor in real-time atmospherically relevant concentrations of FM and GL under controlled experimental conditions. The SIFT-MS used is operated under standard conditions (SCs), as proposed by the supplier, and custom conditions (CCs) to achieve higher sensitivity. In the case of FM, SIFT-MS sensitivity is marginally impacted by relative humidity (RH), and the detection limits achieved are below 200 ppt (parts per trillion). Contrariwise, in the case of GL, a sharp decrease of instrument sensitivity is observed with increasing RH when the H3O+ ion is used. Nevertheless, the detection of GL, using NO+ precursor ion, is moderately impacted by moisture with an actual positive sensitivity response. Therefore, we recommend the use of the NO+ precursor for the reliable detection and quantitation of GL. This work evidences that SIFT-MS can be considered as an efficient tool to monitor the concentration of FM and GL in laboratory experiments, and potentially in indoor or outdoor environments, capable of identifying their primary emission or secondary formation through (photo)oxidation processes. Furthermore, SIFT-MS technology still allows great possibilities for sensitivity improvement and high potential for monitoring low proton transfer affinity compounds.
Full-text available
The use of minipigs (Sus scrofa) as a platform for toxicological and pharmacological research is well established. In the present study, we investigated the effect of formaldehyde (FA) exposure on helper T cell-mediated splenic immune responses in Yucatan minipigs. The minipigs were exposed to different inhaled concentrations of FA (0, 2.16, 4.62, or 10.48 mg/m3) for a period of 2 weeks. Immune responses elicited by exposure to FA were determined by assessing physiological parameters, mRNA expression, and cytokine production. Additionally, the distribution of helper T cells and regulatory T (Treg) cells and expression of NFAT families, which are well-known T cell receptor signalling proteins associated with regulatory T cell development, were evaluated. Exposure to FA suppressed the expression of genes associated with Th1 and Th2 cells in minipigs in a concentration-dependent manner. The subsequent production of cytokines also declined post-FA exposure. Furthermore, exposure to FA induced the differentiation of CD4+ Foxp3+ Treg cells with divergent expression levels of NFAT1 and NFAT2. These results indicated that exposure to FA increased the Treg cell population via the NFAT-mediated T cell receptor signalling pathway, leading to suppression of effector T cell activity with a decline in T cell-related cytokine production.
The role of gas sensors to detect and sense hazardous gases in the environment is very much important. Smart gas sensing is the need of the hour in the field of medical, environment, food spoilage monitoring, drug screening, civil security, and many more areas. Smart sensors can predict the presence of gas and its concentration. These Smart gas sensors require a precise flawless and miniaturized design of their integrated components. The perfect alignment of various integrated components decides its working capabilities such as power consumption, area of the device. Micro heaters play an important role in the design and fabrication of smart gas sensors. In this work, the design and optimization in the thickness parameter of meander shaped microheater are simulated on COMSOL Multiphysics software to achieve a uniform temperature distribution, elevated temperature, and low power consumption. The result obtained through simulation will help reduce the time and cost required for complex fabrication techniques such as Lithography, electrodeposition, and fabricating a microheater with uniform and higher temperature and low power consumption.
The term “disinfection” is defined as a process that kills only vegetative organisms or disinfection refers to killing or inactivation of microorganisms that can cause infection or a disinfectant is one of a diverse group of chemicals which reduces the number of microorganisms present in solution. In the process of disinfection usually involves chemicals, heat or UV light. To ensure microbiological quality, disinfection treatment is of primary importance. Healthcare workers experience high exposure to a wide range of cleaning and disinfecting products. In recent years, there is an increasing consensus that improved cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces is needed in healthcare facilities. Using disinfectants, pathogenic bacteria from the water can be killed and water made safe for the user. Disinfection of the water supply is an important and cost-effective tool to reduce morbidity and mortality from a wide range of infectious diseases. However, the chemicals used to treat water also can produce potentially toxic compounds known as disinfection by-products (DBPs). DBPs form when disinfectants (such as chlorine) react with organic matter that collects in water (such as algae or humic acids from decayed leaves). Most DBP exposure is due to ingestion of drinking water, although some DBPs can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin during bathing, showering, or swimming in a pool. Disinfection by-products (DBPs) form in swimming pool water from reactions between disinfectants such as chlorine and organic matter such as sweat, skin cells, and urine. Laboratory studies show that many DBPs are mutagenic or carcinogenic. Disinfection by-products (DBP) exposures have also been linked with digestive system cancers, but few studies have evaluated relationships with pancreatic cancer.
There is a clear relationship between indoor air quality, gaseous compounds (volatile and semi-volatile) and particles emitted by building materials, biogenic and anthropogenic activities, and human health. An increased interest in indoor air quality and emissions has raised during recent years. Nowadays, it is possible to find several analytical approaches based on a wide variety of sampling and analytical techniques. The main objective of this review is to clarify the different options available for the analyst by a critical evaluation of the different steps involved in these methods. In this way, a clear description and evaluation of the potential advantages and shortcomings for the different devices required in materials emission studies, the collection of total air samples using air canisters and particles by vacuum surface have been included in this review. In addition, the potential use of active and passive sampling techniques, for the efficient collection of different compounds from the air samples is described. Then, the selection of the most adequate analytical approach for the analysis of different compounds as a function of their physicochemical properties is evaluated. The latter will include not only traditional approaches such as gas or liquid chromatography but also more sophisticated ones such as proton transfer reaction or chemical ionization mass spectrometry. Finally, the application of these different analytical approaches to the evaluation of indoor air emissions, mainly from biogenic and anthropogenic activities but also from different building materials, are introduced.
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Indoor air quality problems resulting from the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have become an issue of increasing concern. Emissions from building and furnishing materials, which are frequently constructed from particleboard and medium density fiberboard (MDF), are a potentially important contributor of indoor VOCs. In this research, VOC emissions from particleboard and MDF were measured in small (53-L) stainless steel chambers for 4 days. Samples were collected from 53 of the 61 U.S. mills that produce particleboard and MDF. Each mill identified the predominant tree species used to manufacture the panels. Laboratory tests were conducted at room temperature and 45 percent relative humidity. Gas chromatographic/mass spectrometric analysis was used to identify and quantify VOC compounds. The predominant compounds identified in the emissions from particleboard and MDF samples were terpenes and aldehydes, although small straight-chain alcohols and ketones were also found. This study describes the aldehyde emission data, excluding formaldehyde. Emissions of small straight-chain aldehydes, such as hexanal, pentanal, heptanal, octanal, and nonanal, generally exceeded emissions of other compounds and accounted for more than 50 percent of total VOC emissions. All 53 particleboard and 16 of 18 MDF samples emitted hexanal, the most prevalent aldehyde found (excluding formaldehyde). The tests showed differences in VOC composition and emission factors by product and tree type. On average, aldehyde emissions from southern pine MDF samples considerably exceeded the aldehyde emissions from southern pine particleboard. Emissions from all other MDF samples, however, were lower than those from particleboard samples in the same species group. With the exception of formaldehyde, aldehydes are not added to the adhesives used to bond wood, and they have not previously been reported as extractable compounds in wood. Degradation of the wood or its secondary metabolites is probably responsible for the presence of the aldehydes.
Formaldehyde is a low molecular weight chemical and can elicit acute and chronic health related problems. Most of the inhaled fomaldehyde is retained in the upper respiratory tract due to its extraordinary solubility. Therefore, cases of formaldehyde-induced occupational asthma are sporadic despite its widespread use in industrial processes. We herein report upon a case of occupational asthma due to formaldehyde, which was confirmed by workplace challenge including working environmental assessments, and by formaldehyde inhalation challenge using a specially designed closed-circuit apparatus. To investigate the possible involvement of an IgE-mediated mechanism, both in vitro and in vivo tests were done. IgE antibody specific for formaldehyde-human serum albumin conjugate (F-HSA) was not detected by ELISA, and no specific cutaneous reactivity to F-HSA was noted by either skin prick or intradermal test. The patient was diagnosed with formaldehyde-induced occupational asthma not associated with an IgE mediated mechanism.
A nested case-control study was undertaken to identify the determinants of lung cancer mortality in a cohort of 8147 foundry men among whom an excess of lung cancer deaths was previously observed. The present study consisted of all lung cancer deaths (N = 220) that occurred within this cohort between 1950 and 1989. Both living and dead controls, matched on race and attained age, were selected in the ratio of 10:1 (N = 2200) by means of the incidence density sampling procedure. All cases and two controls per case, randomly selected from each case's 10 controls, were included in a smoking history survey. Basic smoking history information was obtained for about 71% of these study subjects. For the purpose of this study, formaldehyde exposure levels were categorized as high, medium, and low, and none. Airborne silica exposure was categorized only as high, medium, and low levels, because all foundry workers were known to be exposed to silica. Conditional logistic regression analyses indicated that cigarette smoking was a strong predictor of lung cancer mortality in this cohort. Neither exposure to formaldehyde nor silica exposure level, nor employment in any of the six major work areas within the foundry, showed an association with lung cancer.