What Is Formaldehyde Poisoning?

Symptoms of inhaled formaldehyde poisoning may include runny nose and stinging eyes.
Repeated exposure to formaldehyde may result in the development of asthma.
Article Details
  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Formaldehyde is a potentially dangerous chemical that nevertheless can be found in many products and is used in many different industries. When people speak of formaldehyde poisoning, they are usually referring to respiratory, skin-absorbed, or ingested contact. The chemical can present in gas form in products in which it was used, and continued contact can make people very ill. Alternately someone may get high concentration levels of it on the skin or could, in rare circumstances, ingest it. The former is likely to cause skin irritation, and the latter can be deadly.

When people get formaldehyde poisoning through inhalation, they may be being routinely exposed to the gas. either in working environments or at home. In the late 2000s, for instance, it was discovered that trailers donated to help the victims of devastating Hurricane Katrina contained much higher than is normal or acceptable levels of formaldehyde gas. Determination was ultimately made to move families out of the trailers, due to the potential dangers and risks chemical exposure might create over the long term.

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Some of the symptoms of respiratory or inhaled formaldehyde poisoning affect the way people breathe. The nose can become runny or stuffy, and the eyes may sting or tear. Over time, repeated exposure can result in conditions like bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma. Children are most at risk for this and may succumb sooner to effect of gas exposure. Presence of the gas could also affect the skin and be absorbed through it, and may result in rash or chronic skin irritation. Moreover, since this chemical is a carcinogen, exposure on a regular basis poses risk for development of cancer.

It doesn’t take prolonged exposure to cause formaldehyde poisoning. Inhaling a large amount of fumes at one time may result in these symptoms. Those who have had exposure to formaldehyde in large amounts should seek medical attention. People can also become sensitized to the chemical and may react with greater symptoms if exposed to it again.

Since formaldehyde is also in a number of home-based products, it is possible for ingestion of the liquid form of this chemical to occur. This is extremely dangerous and medically urgent. Consumption of even a single ounce has been linked to death, and in children it may not even require that much. Any products that contain dangerous chemicals should be kept well out of the reach of children to avoid this deadly scenario.

Though it might be possible to avoid some formaldehyde, it isn’t possible to always avoid it because the gas is present in the atmosphere. What makes sense is to work on reducing it in the home front and to establish safety protocols for those who use it at work. Homes in many countries must now adhere to certain building standards that may keep levels of the chemical low, but older homes could have higher levels. There are many labs selling a formaldehyde test kit that can test air quality in homes to determine if levels are too high, and they may have strategies for reducing formaldehyde. Symptoms of formaldehyde poisoning like chronic respiratory conditions and skin rashes could be a good reason to pursue this testing.

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Discuss this Article

anon274522
Post 5

How high are the chances of cancer?

ysmina
Post 4

It was in the news last week that 60% of formaldehyde in America ends up being used for construction, mainly wood products and also in textile. If you are not around such materials a lot, I doubt you have formaldehyde poisoning.

It's said to be in cosmetics and soaps and other things also. I don't know whether that could build up in the body and eventually lead to cancer or not, but the amount in these products shouldn't be enough to poison.

bear78
Post 3

My brother is a car mechanic and so he is around car exhaust a lot. Sometimes he comes home with some of the symptoms you have mentioned here. He just doesn't feel good, has a headache and coughs sometimes.

It generally goes away after he is outside for a while and gets some fresh air. Do you think it is from formaldehyde exposure? Does car exhaust have formaldehyde?

fify
Post 2

Most people are not aware of this by formaldehyde is said to be in cigarette smoke too.

No one smokes in my home and if I'm around someone who is smoking in public, I have difficulty breathing, I start to cough and my eyes are watery. I thought that I was allergic to cigarette smoke and that may be the case.

But now that I know what formaldehyde does to the body when inhaled, I think it might be the formaldehyde in cigarette smoke that makes me react this way.

anon84897
Post 1

Markets and supermarkets sell their products such as vegetables, fruits, fish and poultry meat and the like are usually deep or sprayed with formalin diluted with water to prolong the external features of of the products.

Since formalin is carcinogenic, it is very bad for our health, but what does our government say about this problem? It seems that this has been a practice by this stores in exchange for money instead health of the people.

what can we do to save people who are innocent about this?

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