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Formaldehyde

Overview

CAS No. 50-00-0

Formaldehyde (CH₂O) is a colorless, highly toxic, and flammable gas at room temperature. It is used in the production of fertilizer, paper, plywood, and some resins. It is also used as a food preservative and in household products, such as antiseptics, medicines, and cosmetics. Exposure to formaldehyde can irritate the skin, throat, lungs, and eyes. Repeated exposure to formaldehyde can possibly lead to cancer. Workers may be harmed by exposure to formaldehyde. The level of exposure depends upon the dose, duration, and work being done.

Formaldehyde is used in many industries. It’s used in glues and resins, dyes, textiles, disinfectants, building materials, automobile parts, embalming, and laboratories. Some examples of workers at risk of being exposed to formaldehyde include the following:

  • Agricultural workers who work in confinement livestock production
  • Construction workers who work with resin manufactured products
  • Workers who manufacture plastics, resins and foam insulation
  • Morticians in the embalming process
  • Beauticians who apply dyes and smoothing products

NIOSH recommends that employers use Hierarchy of Controls to prevent injuries.  If you work in an industry that uses formaldehyde, please read chemical labels and the accompanying Safety Data Sheet for hazard information. Visit NIOSH’s page on Managing Chemical Safety in the Workplace to learn more about controlling chemical workplace exposures.

The following resources provide information about occupational exposure to formaldehyde. Useful search terms for formaldehyde include “methanal,” “methyl aldehyde,” “methylene oxide.”

NIOSH Chemical Resources

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NIOSH Pocket Guide

The NIOSH Pocket Guide (NPG) provides safety and health information on several hundred chemicals found in the workplace. The guide aims to help workers and employers identify and control chemical hazards.

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Manual of Analytical Methods

The NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods (NMAM) is a collection of methods for sampling and analysis of contaminants in workplace air, and in the blood and urine of workers who are occupationally exposed.

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Health Hazard Evaluations

The Health Hazard Evaluation Program (HHE) conducts onsite investigations of possible worker exposure to chemicals. Search the HHE database for more information on formaldehyde.

Related NIOSH Resources

Selected Publications

Related Resources

International Resources

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