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Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde

Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is the simplest of a class of organic compounds called aliphatic aldehydes. It is well known as a preservative in medical laboratories, as an embalming fluid, and as a sterilizer. Its primary use is in the production of resins and as a chemical intermediate. Urea-formaldehyde (UF) and phenol formaldehyde (PF) resins are used in foam insulation, as adhesives in the production of particle board and plywood, and in the treating of textiles.

What are the hazards associated with formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen. Short-term exposure to high concentrations of formaldehyde can be fatal. Long-term exposure to low levels of formaldehyde may cause respiratory difficulty, eczema, and sensitization.

Formaldehyde in its gaseous state is highly flammable with a broad explosive range (7% - 73%). Formaldehyde in solution as formalin (37% formaldehyde) is combustible and is highly reactive with many chemicals.

Solutions

Solutions

What can I do to protect myself?

The simplest approach is to avoid using products that contain formaldehyde. When that is not possible, position yourself and the work process so that ventilation can move formaldehyde vapors away from you.

Your employer is required to protect you below the permissible exposure limits using engineering and administrative controls. When they are not sufficient, they must provide you with an appropriate respirator and ensure that it is used in conjunction with an effective respiratory protection program.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Presentations that may also assist the employer with their training requirements include hazard communication, respiratory protection, and personal protective equipment. These presentations should be modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards. 

Example programs for hazard communication and respiratory protection can be customized to fit workplace conditions and hazards as part of the employer's overall comprehensive safety and health program. In addition, a PPE hazard assessment can be completed to ensure all applicable PPE is being used.

Related resources can be found on the A-Z topics pages for respiratory protection, hazard communication, and personal protective equipment. In addition, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). The education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request.

Regulations

Regulations

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards for formaldehyde in North Carolina:

Other OSH standards relevant to occupational exposure to formaldehyde in general industry include:

Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-707-7876.