Formaldehyde is a colorless, highly toxic, and flammable gas at room temperature. It is a strong smelling chemical which is commonly used in research and medical laboratories as an aqueous solution. Formaldehyde can act as a sensitizing agent and is a known human carcinogen that is linked to nasal cancer and lung cancer. Acute exposure is highly irritating to the respiratory system and can cause headaches and eye and throat irritation at very low concentrations.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) Formaldehyde Standard (29 CFR 1910.1048) protects workers exposed to formaldehyde from formaldehyde gas, its solutions, and materials that release formaldehyde.
Processes or occupational activities in University laboratories that may result in formaldehyde exposure include (but are not limited to):
- Handling biological specimens/tissues preserved in formaldehyde
- Sterilization or disinfection procedures
- Embalming procedures
- Gross Anatomy laboratories involving cadavers
- Fumigation procedures
The use of formaldehyde should follow specific policies and procedures based on your work environment. Reference the Formaldehyde Exposure Control Policy for more information on responsibilities and requirements. If you have questions regarding formaldehyde use or would like to request monitoring for exposure to formaldehyde please contact Chemical Safety.