Formaldehyde is a chemical used in embalming and tissue preservation, as well as in cold sterilization. Acute exposure to formaldehyde may result in pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), central nervous system (CNS) depression, or pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung tissue). Chronic exposure may cause irritation of the skin, mucous membranes or respiratory tract. Repeated exposure to formaldehyde may result in an allergic response. It is also a potential carcinogen. Primary exposure routes are inhalation and skin absorption.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has determined levels above which medical surveillance must be offered. Faculty and staff who are potentially exposed to formaldehyde at or above these levels must undergo annual medical surveillance which includes a medical questionnaire to review medical history and risk factors that might make someone more susceptible to the effects of formaldehyde. An annual physical examination and basic spirometry (breathing test) are also performed.
Employees with acute exposure to formaldehyde should be seen immediately in OHC or, after-hours, in the Emergency Department.
OSHA Formaldehyde Standard
Vanderbilt Surveillance Program Screening Requirements
Keywords: formaldehyde, physicals, OSHA