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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: 1290

CAS number: 50-00-0

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Primary Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method:
  • recommended maximum volume: 24 L (TWA)
  • recommended maximum flow rate: 0.1 L/min (TWA)
  • recommended maximum volume: 3 L (STEL)
  • recommended maximum flow rate: 0.2 L/min (STEL)
  • current analytical method: gas chromatography; GC/NPD
  • analytical solvent: toluene
  • method reference: OSHA 52 (fully validated)
  • sampling time: 15 to 240 min
  • current analytical method: liquid chromatography/UV detector; LC/IC
  • analytical solvent: acetonitrile
  • method reference: OSHA 1007 (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.
    7. Diffusive sampler accessories used for analysis of samplers must be included with transported samples.
    8. 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:
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)

Exposure Limits and Health Effects (Updated September 6, 2012)

Standard Set By Exposure Limit Health Effect Codes -- Health Effects and Target Organs

OSHA PEL - General Industry
See 29 CFR 1910.1048

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
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
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
NIOSH 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
ACGIH TLV® (2016) 0.1 ppm TWA
0.3 ppm STEL
dermal sensitizer (DSEN), respiratory sensitizer (RSEN)
A1
HE15 -- upper respiratory and eye irritation
CAL/OSHA PELs 0.75 ppm TWA
2 ppm STEL
0.5 ppm Action Level
 

Carcinogenic classification:

EPA Inhalation Reference Concentration (RfC): Not established

ATSDR Inhalation Minimal Risk Levels (MRLs): 0.04 ppm (acute); 0.03 ppm (intermediate); 0.008 ppm (chronic)

NIOSH IDLH concentration: 20 ppm

Notes on other potential health effects and hazards:

  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.

Partial reference list:

  • ACGIH: Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) - Formaldehyde. 2017.
  • ATSDR: Toxicological profile for formaldehyde. July 1999 (Addendum 2010).
  • 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: Integrated Risk Information System - 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 HumansFormaldehyde. vol 100F. 2012.
  • Kilburn, K.H.: Neurobehavioral impairment and seizures from formaldehyde. Arch Environ Health. 49(1):37-44, Jan-Feb 1994.
  • NTP: Report on Carcinogens Substance Profile Formaldehyde.
  • NIOSH: Criteria for a Recommended Standard - Occupational Exposure to Formaldehyde. 1976.
  • NIOSH: Occupational Health Guideline for Formaldehyde. 1988.
  • NIOSH/CEC/IPCS: International Chemical Safety CardsFormaldehyde. 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.

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