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.”
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.
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.
The Health Hazard Evaluation Program (HHE) conducts onsite investigations of possible worker exposure to chemicals. Search the HHE database for more information on formaldehyde.
- NIOSHTIC-2 search results on formaldehyde—NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable database of worker safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.
- Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) Value Profile: Formaldehyde—NIOSH reviews relevant scientific data and conducts research on methods for developing IDLH values.
- NIOSH Worker Health Study Summaries–Embalming Students (Formaldehyde Exposure)—The NIOSH Worker Notification Program notifies workers and other stakeholders about the findings of these studies.
- NIOSH Worker Health Study Summaries–Garment Workers—The NIOSH Worker Notification Program notifies workers and other stakeholders about the findings of these studies.
- Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Formaldehyde, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 74-126 (1976)—Presents a standard to prevent the adverse effects of exposure to formaldehyde over a working lifetime.
- NIOSH Skin Notation Profiles: Formaldehyde/Formalin —Understanding the risks related to skin contact with chemicals is critical.
- Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR)–ToxFAQs: Formaldehyde
- ATSDR’s Medical Management Guidelines (MMGs): Formaldehyde
- ATSDR Toxicological Profile for Fomaldehyde
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–Chemistry Dashboard: FormaldehydeExternal
- EPA Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs): FormaldehydeExternal
- EPA Health Effects Notebook for Hazardous Air Pollutants: FormaldehydeCdc-pdfExternal
- EPA Sources of Indoor Air Pollution: FormaldehydeExternal
- Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) Chemical Sampling Information: FormaldehydeExternal
- OSHA Fact Sheet: FormaldehydeCdc-pdfExternal[PDF – 42.5 KB]
- OSHA Hazard CommunicationExternal
- OSHA Safety and Health Topics: FormaldehydeExternal
- OSHA Formaldehyde: 1910.1048External
- OSHA Hazard Alert: Hair Smoothing Products That Could Release FormaldehydeExternal
- National Library of Medicine (NLM)–Haz Map: FormaldehydeCdc-pdfExternal
- NLM (Household Products Database): FormaldehydeExternal
- National Toxicology Program (NTP) Report on Carcinogens (Fourteenth Edition): FormaldehydeExternal
- New Jersey Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets: FormaldehydeCdc-pdfExternal[PDF – 75.1 KB]
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS): FormaldehydeExternal
- European Chemical Agency(ECHA): FormaldehydeExternal
- INCHEM (Screening Information Data Set-SIDS): FormaldehydeCdc-pdfExternal
- International Chemical Safety Cards: FormaldehydeExternal
- World Health Organization (WHO) Environmental Health Criteria 89: FormaldehydeExternal
- WHO HSG 57: FormaldehydeExternal
- WHO CICADS 40: FormaldehydeExternal
- International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monograph (Vol. 88): FormaldehydeCdc-pdfExternal
- IARC Monograph (Vol. 62): Wood Dust and FormaldehydeExternal
- United Nations Environmental Programme (OECD SIDS): FormaldehydeCdc-pdfExternal