The Dangers of Formaldehyde Exposure for Workers

Published by Justin McCarter on Jan 25th 2012

Formaldehyde Contact Is Hazardous Chances are all of us have some level of exposure to formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is inexpensive to produce and has a wide range of uses from building materials such as paint or the glue used to bind plywood, particle board and paneling to the Brazilian Blowout, a hair-straitening product found to contain startlingly high concentrations of this dangerous compound. For those who work in industries where formaldehyde is used regularly the dangers are quite serious. Even light contact with formaldehyde (also abbreviated HCHO) can irritate the eyes and affect the mucous membranes and upper respiratory system. Prolonged or acute exposure can create severe abdominal pain, convulsions, diarrhea, bronchitis, pneumonia or pulmonary edema. Not only that, but OSHA has determined that formaldehyde is a genotoxic, showing properties of both a cancer initiator and promoter for early and late stage carcinogen. While those who work around formaldehyde regularly – agricultural workers, drug makers, furniture makers and finishers, and now salon workers - are at some risk of ingesting the compound, the more common routes for exposure are through skin absorption and inhalation. While latex gloves provide some barrier to absorption, butyl or nitrile gloves are recommended and should be used when contact is anticipated. With regard to inhalation, employers who require workers to be exposed to formaldehyde in concentrations over .75 parts of formaldehyde per million parts of air (.75 ppm), must provide and make sure the employees wear respirators that conform to OSHA standards 1910.134 for respiratory protection. A great mask that meets these requirements is the Moldex 9000 Respirator Combination. The Moldex 9000 is a full face respirator that, when properly worn, will protect not only the lungs of the wearer, but also the eyes and the mucous membranes that can be affected by formaldehyde fumes. The mask features Moldex 7600 Multi-Gas Vapor Smart Cartridges that are capable of filtering multiple gases that may be present in the same work space. According to Wikipedia, last year over 50 billion tons of formaldehyde was produced worldwide. Workers and employers who work with this compound need to take steps to prevent exposure that can lead to short term and long term hazards to health.