• Wood Products—Formaldehyde is widely used to make resins for wood products. Composite and engineered wood products such as cabinetry, countertops, moldings, furniture, shelving, stair systems, flooring, wall sheathing, support beams and trusses use formaldehyde resins.
• Drugs and Vaccines—Formaldehyde is used in the manufacture of vaccines, anti-infective drugs and hard-gel capsules.
• Auto Industry—Formaldehyde-based resins are used to make interior molded auto parts, particularly components that must withstand high temperatures. The same toxic resins are also used to produce exterior primers, clear coat paints, tire-cord adhesives, brake pads, brake shoes, clutch disks and fuel system components.
• Personal Care—Formaldehyde is commonly used in many household products, not generally thought to be toxic. Many personal care items may contain formaldehyde-based ingredients, used as preservatives to extend the product shelf life. Formaldehyde is sometimes used in cosmetics, lotions, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and fingernail polish.
Other products that may contain formaldehyde include:
• Antiseptics and other cleaning agents
• Wood Furniture
• Medicines and vitamins
• Preserved foods
• Brake pads
• Brake shoes
• Clutch disks
• Decorative laminates
• Textiles (cotton blends, wrinkle resistant fabric)
• Sand molds
The highest potential exposure occurs in the formaldehyde-based resins industry. Workers may be exposed to high air concentrations of formaldehyde or dermal exposure. Workers using or producing the following may be at heightened risk:
• Phenolic paper
• Synthetic Resin Bonded Paper (SRBP)
Formaldehyde Linked to Cancer
The National Toxicology Program (NTP) classifies formaldehyde as “known to be a human carcinogen.” Epidemiological studies of employees exposed to formaldehyde in the workplace have reported a link between formaldehyde exposure and cancer.
These studies primarily observed workers in occupational settings that use or make formaldehyde and formaldehyde resins, as well as at people who work as embalmers.
Several studies have found that embalmers and medical professionals that use formaldehyde have an increased risk of leukemia, particularly myeloid leukemia.
One study found that workers exposed to formaldehyde had elevated levels of chromosome changes in early white blood cells in their bone marrow, supporting the link between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia. National Cancer Institute researchers have also concluded that exposure to formaldehyde may cause leukemia.
Embalmers Toxic Exposure
Several studies have found that embalmers and medical professionals that use formaldehyde have an increased risk of leukemia, particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Some studies of industrial workers exposed to formaldehyde have also found increased risks of leukemia, but not all studies have shown an increased risk.
Long durations of exposure used for embalming in the funeral industry are associated with an increased risk of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The number of years of embalming work with formaldehyde exposure is associated with a significant increase in mortality from acute myeloid leukemia. The greatest risk exists among embalmers who practice for over 20 years.
Embalming fluid is a mixture of chemicals that includes various preservatives, germicides, buffers, wetting agents, anticoagulants, dyes, and perfuming agents. Formalin, a commercial source of formaldehyde, is the most common chemical used for this purpose. Medical staff and embalmers regularly handing Formalin, or other formaldehyde-based solutions, are at risk of exposure through chronic inhalation and skin contact.
Embalmers and medical professionals can reduce the toxic effects of fumes during dissection and embalming by the following measures:
• Use embalming fluid with a lesser concentration of chemicals
• Workplace Ventilation Risks
• Install eye washing stations and negative pressure pump systems
• Use gloves, apron and mask to avoid direct skin contact
• Avoid working between exhaust vents and the source of toxic fumes
Formaldehyde Exposure: Signs and Symptoms
When formaldehyde is present in the air at a particular work site, exposed workers may have adverse reactions and negative health effects that may include the following:
• Burning sensations of the eyes, nose, and throat
• Skin irritation and reactions
The Lyon Firm is experienced in filing workplace injury and toxic exposure lawsuits against chemical companies and employers who fail to follow basic OSHA safety guidelines, leading to injuries and personal injury claims.