CAW National Council 4000
Occupational Health and Safety

Hazardous Substances:  Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde can adversely affect your health if you breathe it in or if it comes into contact with your skin or eyes.

Short-term Effects

Formaldehyde irritates the skin and eyes, resulting in a burning sensation or a skin rash. If exposure is high, it may cause severe
burning and the damage can be permanent. Even if the burn isn’t felt right away it may become apparent a few hours later. If it is
inhaled, it irritates the nose, mouth and throat. The lungs also get irritated leading to coughing and shortness of breath. If
exposure is high, it can cause pulmonary edema, a build-up of fluid in the lungs leading to severe shortness of breath. Pulmonary
edema is very serious and requires immediate medical attention.

Long-term Effects

Formaldehyde is a skin sensitizer, which means that in some people it causes an allergic reaction of the skin. If this happens, future
exposure to even very low levels of formaldehyde will result in itching and a skin rash. Repeated contact with the eyes may lead to
loss of vision. Repeated inhalation can cause bronchitis or an allergic lung reaction resembling asthma. There is evidence that
formaldehyde may reduce the effectiveness of the immune system, and may cause mutations in cells.

Formaldehyde causes mutations in cells, and has been shown to cause cancer of the nasal passages in animals. It is considered a
probable carcinogen in humans.


Enclose process
Local exhaust ventilation
Personal protective clothing and equipment
Wash thoroughly after exposure and at the end of the work shift.

All carcinogens should be eliminated from the workplace wherever possible as even minimal amounts can initiate the uncontrollable
growth of abnormal cells.


ACGIH TLV 0.3 ppm (mg/m3).
U.S. NIOSH recommendation ppm

Source:  CAW Health, Safety & Environment Department