At the end of this module, you will be able to:
- Describe formaldehyde
- Explain the history, production, and uses of formaldehyde
- Identify sources and types of formaldehyde exposure
- Describe effects of formaldehyde exposure
- Describe proper regulation and prevention of formaldehyde exposure
The following key questions are answered in this module:
What is Formaldehyde and what's it most commonly used for?
Formaldehyde is a colorless, pungent smelling gas. The most commonly known form of this chemical is as an aqueous solution used for embalming and preserving biological specimens.
How is it used in the industrial settings?
More than half of all formaldehyde is used in the production of polymers. When combined with urea, phenol, or melamine, formaldehyde produces different kinds of thermo set resins. These resins are used in permanent adhesives, such as those used in plywood, particle board manufacture and carpeting. The resins can be foamed to make insulation, or cast into molded products.
What are the effects if exposed to Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde affects people in various ways. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde while others may have no noticeable reaction at the same level of exposure. Typically, when present in the air at levels of 0.1 - 2 ppm, formaldehyde will result in watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat; and other irritating effects. At levels above 4 ppm prolonged exposure is intolerable. 50 ppm will cause injury to the respiratory tract, and concentrations of 100 ppm are an immediate threat to life.
How can you reduce hazards associated with formaldehyde exposure?
While not all formaldehyde can be substituted, properly venting the environment can reduce hazards. Exhausting contaminated air and bringing fresh air into a work area where formaldehyde has been detected can be a very effective way to reduce concentrations below problem levels.
What should people who work with or around formaldehyde know to take precautionary measures?
Employees who work with formaldehyde need to be trained to understand the dangers of working with it. They should know the symptoms of overexposure, proper use of safety equipment such as ventilation hoods, the use and limitations of personal protective equipment, and how to respond to emergencies such as spills.
Below is a transcript of the video sample provided for this module:
Formaldehyde is a colorless, pungent-smelling gas. The most commonly known form of this chemical is as an aqueous solution used for embalming and preserving biological specimens. It is widely used in a variety of other products, predominantly in the production of resins and adhesives, such as those used in the manufacture of particle board and plywood. Formaldehyde is an irritant at levels as low as point one parts per million and a threat to life at the 100 parts per million level. This module describes some of the uses of formaldehyde, how it can affect the body, and how contact can be minimized.
Use the additional resources and links below to learn more about this topic:
- U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) – www.osha.gov
- OSHA Safety and Health Topics - https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/formaldehyde/index.html
- OSHA Fact Sheet - https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/formaldehyde-factsheet.pdf
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – www.cdc.gov/niosh/
- NIOSH Workplace Safety & Health Topics - http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/formaldehyde/