Formaldehyde in Your Home

November 12th, 2003

To the Editor,

This informative article, fails to mention one essential component of the problem. All of those products containing the formaldehyde which sickened workers involved in their manufacture, are then purchased by consumers. The public lacks understanding of the fact that they, too, will be breathing in formaldehyde fumes emitted by their new furnishings, panelling and carpeting. When they clean and press their permanent press clothing, fumes will be activated by the heat of the dryer and iron. The danger does not end in the workplace but in your kitchen with its new particle board cabinets.

Prior to reaching the stage where leukemia may develop, one can suffer severe adverse effects from acute and/or chronic exposure to this corrosive chemical. Damage to the skin, lungs,eyes, nose and throat can occur along with headache, nausea, vomiting etc.* This chemical is also known to be a sensitizer, meaning contacts with formaldehyde can cause one to become allergic to it or reduce one’s tolerance for it. This results in severe health effects occuring upon exposure to smaller and smaller concentrations of it. This can limit the scope of one’s freedom to navigate an environment in which this chemical is ubiquitous.

OSHA forbids employees to be exposed to concentrations above .75 ppm over an 8-hour workday. Yet no one is measuring the concentrations in your new or redecorated home. You may be spending at least 12 to 24 hours per day in an environment more toxic than your office.

Construction materials do not contain formaldehyde in Europe. Why do we permit it? Consumers must lead the charge in rejecting toxic products. We must overcome the ignorance promoted by our failure to require full disclosure of ingredients on all our products.

Barbara Rubin

*Source, Fact Sheet #49,
Formaldehyde: Hazards and Precautions (11/13/00);
Office of Environmental Health and Safety, Berkeley


Atlanta (GA) Journal-Constitution, Nov. 7, 2003

Formaldehyde, the pungent chemical used in everything from insect
preservation to film manufacturing, may boost rates of leukemia in
exposed workers, a major federal analysis finds.

And a new study from the United Kingdom suggests such workers also face
a greater lung cancer risk from formaldehyde exposure, although they
only face a tiny risk of some rarer cancers.

While the U.S. researchers acknowledge other studies haven’t been as
definitive about the potential risk, the new reports are certain to fuel
the debate over the use of the chemical in American factories.
Federal regulations have limited exposure to formaldehyde since the
However, some experts continue to call for less research and more

“We need more science like we need a hole in the head,” says Dr. Samuel
S. Epstein, professor emeritus of environmental and occupational
medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health.

For the U.S. study, Michael Hauptmann, a biostatistics researcher at the
National Cancer Institute, and his colleagues launched the largest-ever
analysis of formaldehyde exposure. They examined the medical records of
25,619 workers who began working with formaldehyde
before 1966 at 10 industrial plants. Researchers followed the workers
through 1994.

Those exposed to high levels of formaldehyde were up to 3.5 times
more likely to develop leukemia than those at the lowest levels. In
total, 69 of the those workers died of leukemia.
While the number of deaths is small, the link between formaldehyde and
leukemia is important, Hauptmann says. “The study definitely suggests
that exposure should be kept to a minimum in the workplace and the
environment,” he adds.

The number of American workers exposed to formaldehyde on the job
appears to be unknown, but federal officials estimated the number at 1.5
million from 1981-1983.

Most of the workers are exposed to formaldehyde during various types
of manufacturing, including the production of particle board, plywood,
plastic and photographic film, Hauptmann says.
Scientists and pathologists also work with formaldehyde, which acts as a
preservative and gives laboratories their distinct smell. Other uses
include the manufacture of permanent press clothing, embalming fluid and

Categories: Atlanta Journal-Const.

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