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Formaldehyde

General Description

Synonyms:

Diesel exhaust component; Formalin; Formic aldehyde; Methanal; Methyl aldehyde; Methylene oxide; Oxymethylene; Rosin core solder pyrolysis product

OSHA IMIS Code Number:

1290

Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number:

50-00-0

NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Identification Number:

LP8925000

Department of Transportation Regulation Number (49 CFR 172.101) and 2012 Emergency Response Guidebook [4 MB PDF, 392 pages]:

1198 132 (formaldehyde, solution, flammable); 1198 132 (formaldehyde, solutions [formalin]); 2209 132 (formaldehyde, solutions [formalin, corrosive])

NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, Formaldehyde:

chemical description, physical properties, potentially hazardous incompatibilities, and more

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Hazard Summary - Formaldehyde:

Uses, sources and potential exposure, acute and chronic health hazard information, and more

Exposure Limits and Health Effects

Exposure Limit Limit Values HE Code Health Factors and Target Organs

OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) - General Industry

See 29 CFR 1910.1048 Formaldehyde

  • 0.75 ppm TWA
  • 2 ppm STEL
  • 0.5 ppm Action Level
HE1 Cancer (lung, nasopharynx, oropharynx, nasal passages)
HE9 Bronchial asthma
HE11 Pulmonary edema, pneumonia
HE14 Eye, skin, and respiratory irritation; allergic contact dermatitis

OSHA PEL - Construction Industry

See 29 CFR 1926.1148 Formaldehyde

  • 0.75 ppm TWA
  • 2 ppm STEL
  • 0.5 ppm Action Level
HE1 Cancer (lung, nasopharynx, oropharynx, nasal passages)
HE9 Bronchial asthma
HE11 Pulmonary edema, pneumonia
HE14 Eye, skin, and respiratory irritation; allergic contact dermatitis

OSHA PEL - Shipyard Employment

See 29 CFR 1915.1048 Formaldehyde

  • 0.75 ppm TWA
  • 2 ppm STEL
  • 0.5 ppm Action Level
HE1 Cancer (lung, nasopharynx, oropharynx, nasal passages)
HE9 Bronchial asthma
HE11 Pulmonary edema, pneumonia
HE14 Eye, skin, and respiratory irritation; allergic contact dermatitis

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL)

  • 0.016 ppm TWA
  • 0.1 ppm Ceiling (15 minutes)
  • Ca
HE4 Headache, sensation of pressure in head, and heart palpitations; gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting; convulsions, coma
HE9 Respiratory sensitization
HE11 Bronchitis, pulmonary edema, pneumonitis, pneumonia, and respiratory failure
HE14 Respiratory irritation and symptoms; eye irritation and burns, with vision loss; dermatitis

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV) (2007)

  • 0.3 ppm
  • (0.37 mg/m3) Ceiling
  • SEN; A2
HE15 Upper respiratory and eye irritation

CAL/OSHA PELs

See Section 5217

  • 0.75 ppm TWA
  • 2 ppm STEL
  • 0.5 ppm Action Level

National Toxicology Program (NTP) carcinogenic classification:

Known to be a human carcinogen

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) carcinogenic classification:

Group 1 [4 MB PDF, 287 pages] (carcinogenic to humans)

EPA carcinogenic classification:

Probable human carcinogen - based on limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans

EPA Inhalation Reference Concentration (RfC):

Not established

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Inhalation Minimal Risk Level (MRL):

0.04 ppm (acute); 0.03 ppm (intermediate); 0.008 ppm (chronic)

NIOSH Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) concentration:

20 ppm

Notes on Other Potential Health Effects

  1. Formaldehyde is extremely flammable, and gas mixtures are explosive (NIOSH/IPCS 2004).
  2. Tolerance to low exposure levels may develop within one to two hours, which can allow workers to remain in environments with increasing formaldehyde concentrations without being aware of the increasingly hazardous exposure (OSHA 1910.1048 App C).
  3. Formaldehyde appears to take part in both the initiation and promotion stages of carcinogenesis (OSHA 1910.1048 App C).
  4. Formaldehyde appears to be a genotoxic chemical (OSHA 1910.1048 App C).
  5. Sensitized workers may be susceptible to formaldehyde toxicity at concentrations lower than the standard (NIOSH 1976).
  6. Formaldehyde exposure may be associated with brain cancer, leukemia, and pancreatic cancer (Stroup et al. 1986; Hauptmann et al. 2009; Collins et al. 2001).
  7. Risk of prostate cancer may increase with formaldehyde exposure (Hauptmann et al. 2004).
  8. Formaldehyde exposure appears to impair the functionality of the central nervous system, which may manifest as seizures, abnormal balance and vision, and delayed cognitive functions (Kilburn 1994).
  9. The National Toxicology Program Report on Carcinogens (2011) states that formaldehyde causes nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia in people, based on studies in workers. Increased leukemia in dose related fashion in embalmers (Hauptman 2009) was important to the finding on leukemia. Evidence was also found for increased sinonasal cancer, brain cancer and lung cancer.
  10. IARC (2012) concluded that formaldehyde causes cancer of the nasopharynx and leukemia; evidence for sinonasal cancer was considered weaker.

Date Last Revised:

10/4/2012

Literature Basis

  • ACGIH: Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) - Chromium and Inorganic Compounds. 2004.
  • ATSDR: Toxicological profile for formaldehyde. July 1999 (Addendum 2010 [644 KB PDF, 151 pages]).
  • Collins, J.J., Esman, N.A., Hall, T.A.: A review and meta-analysis of formaldehyde exposure and pancreatic cancer. Am J Ind Med. 39(3):336-45, March 2001.
  • EPA IRIS Formaldehyde 1991.
  • Hauptmann, M., Lubin, J.H., Stewart, P.A., Hayes, R.B., and Blair, A.: Mortality from solid cancers among workers in formaldehyde industries. Am J Epidemiol. 15;159(12):1117-30, June 2004.
  • Hauptmann, M., Stewart, P.A., Lubin, J.H., Beane Freeman, L.E., Hornung, R.W., Herrick, R.F., Hoover, R.N., Fraumeni, J.F. Jr., Blair, A., and Hayes, R.B.: Mortality from lymphohematopoietic malignancies and brain cancer among embalmers exposed to formaldehyde. J Natl Cancer Inst. 101(24):1696-708, December 16, 2009.
  • IARC Monographs on the evaluation of Carcinogenicity to Humans, volume 100F, Formaldehyde, 2012 [780 KB PDF, 36 pages].
  • Kilburn, K.H.: Neurobehavioral impairment and seizures from formaldehyde. Arch Environ Health. 49(1):37-44, Jan-Feb 1994.
  • National Toxicology Program 12th Report on Carcinogens Substance Profile Formaldehyde, 2011 [406 KB PDF, 11 pages].
  • NIOSH: Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Formaldehyde. 1976.
  • NIOSH: Occupational Health Guideline for Formaldehyde. 1988.
  • NIOSH/IPCS: International Chemical Safety Cards: Formaldehyde. 2004.
  • OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Standards - Toxic and Hazardous Substances - Formaldehyde. 29 CFR 1910.1048.
  • OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Standards - Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Substance Technical Guidelines for Formalin. 29 CFR 1910.1048 App A.
  • OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Standards - Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Medical Surveillance - Formaldehyde. 29 CFR 1910.1048 App C.
  • Stroup, N.E., Blair, A., and Erikson, G.E.: Brain cancer and other causes of death in anatomists. J Natl Cancer Inst. 77(6):1217-24, December 1986.

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Primary Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method (SLC1):
  • Coated XAD-2 Tube (150/75 mg sections, 20/60 mesh); coating is 10% (w/w) 2-(Hydroxymethyl)piperidine.
  • analytical solvent: Toluene
  • maximum volume: 24 Liters
  • maximum flow rate: 0.1 L/min (TWA)
  • maximum volume: 3 Liters
  • maximum flow rate: 0.2 L/min (STEL)
  • current analytical method: Gas Chromatography; GC/NPD
  • method reference: OSHA Manual of Analytical Methods (OSHA 52)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
  • Diffusive Sampler
    • Assay Technology ChemDisk Aldehyde Monitor 571;
    • SKC UMEx 100 Passive Sampler; or
    • Supelco DSD-DNPH Diffusive Sampling Device
  • analytical solvent: Acetonitrile
  • sampling time: 15 to 240 Minutes
  • current analytical method: Liquid Chromatography/UV detector; LC/IC
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA 1007)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
  • notes:

    1. Store samplers in a refrigerator both before and after sampling.
    2. For quantitative sampling results, use an active sampling procedure such as OSHA Method 52 when monitoring exposures resulting from the use of formalin solutions. These diffusive samplers failed SLTC method validation requirements when formalin was the source of formaldehyde. A formalin solution is a solution of formaldehyde in water that is stabilized with methyl alcohol.
    3. Do not use these diffusive samplers if the ozone level is greater than 0.5 ppm. (Section 4.9)
    4. Do not use these diffusive samplers if the humidity is 10% or less. (Section 4.9)
    5. Place samples into manufacturer-supplied aluminized bags immediately after sampling.
    6. Persons using diffusive samplers to monitor workplace air must ensure that the sampling devices are properly closed before transporting such devices to the laboratory for analysis. The device will continue to sample until properly closed. Diffusive sampler accessories used for analysis of samplers must be included with transported samples. Persons using such devices must provide sampling-site station barometric pressure and temperature to the analytical laboratory to improve accuracy of sampling results.
On-Site Sampling Techniques/Methods:
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Matheson-Kitagawa
  • model/type: 8014-171SB
  • sampling information: follow manufacturer's instructions
  • upper measurement limit: 35 ppm
  • detection limit: approx. 1 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: unknown
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (manufacturer)
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Matheson-Kitagawa
  • model/type: 8014-171SA
  • sampling information: follow manufacturer's instructions
  • upper measurement limit: 1500 ppm
  • detection limit: approx. 20 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: unknown
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (manufacturer)
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Matheson-Kitagawa
  • model/type: 8014-171SC
  • sampling information: follow manufacturer's instructions
  • upper measurement limit: 4 ppm
  • detection limit: approx. 0.1 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: unknown
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (manufacturer)
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: AUER/MSA
  • model/type: Formaldehyde-0,1 MSA P/N 497649, AUER P/N 5086-813
  • sampling information: follow manufacturer's instructions
  • upper measurement limit: 55 ppm
  • detection limit: approx. 0.1 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: unknown
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (manufacturer)
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Gastec
  • model/type: 91
  • sampling information: 0.5 to 2 strokes
  • upper measurement limit: 100 ppm
  • detection limit: approx. 0.5 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: 25% for 2 to 6 ppm, 16.4% for 6 to 20 ppm
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (manufacturer)
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Gastec
  • model/type: 91M
  • sampling information: 0.5 to 2 strokes
  • upper measurement limit: 6400 ppm
  • detection limit: approx. 4 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: 16.4% for 8 to 200 ppm, 8.2% for 500 to 2000 ppm
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (manufacturer)
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Gastec
  • model/type: 91L
  • sampling information: 1 to 2 strokes
  • upper measurement limit: 40 ppm
  • detection limit: approx. 0.05 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: 16.4% for 0.1 to 0.5 ppm, 8.2% for 0.5 to 5 ppm
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (manufacturer)
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Gastec
  • model/type: 91LL
  • sampling information: 5 strokes
  • upper measurement limit: 1.0 ppm
  • detection limit: approx. 0.03 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: 16.4% for 0.05 to 0.3 ppm, 8.2% for 0.5 to 1 ppm
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (manufacturer)
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Dräger
  • model/type: Formaldehyde 0.2/a, order no. 67 33081
  • sampling information: 10 or 20 strokes
  • upper measurement limit: 5 ppm
  • detection limit: approx. 0.1 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: 33%
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (manufacturer)
  • Detector Tube
  • manufacturer: Dräger
  • model/type: Formaldehyde 2/a, order no. 81 01751
  • sampling information: 5 strokes
  • upper measurement limit: 40 ppm
  • detection limit: approx. 0.5 ppm
  • overall uncertainty: 33%
  • method reference: on-site air secondary (manufacturer)

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