Formaldehyde fumes

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From:"RUSS ALLISON" <> (by way of histonet)
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'Fraid I've got to enter the fray.
Can someone please tell me what is the hazard exactly that is
associated with formaldehyde.
I know it causes contact dermatitis , a sensitivity reaction,
whatever, and this is damn unpleasant for those affected.  I also
know that you can work with the stuff for years without a problem
and it can suddenly flare up in the twilight of a long career.
I also know it makes your eyes water and can make breathing
unpleasant (temporarily)
I know its a pretty effective poison if you chose to drink it.  I know it
kills bugs.
Most relevant, I know it can give rise to cancer in rats.
however, those were in the same sort of dosage that suggested
saccharine could do the same and we still eat saccharine.
I tried hard to find the specific reference to the it causing cancer
amongst laboratory personel, without success.
I'm not even sure there is evidence amongst leather tanners, who
used to use it in profusion.
Anecdotally, I know quite a few wisened old histotech who were
exposed to it for years and years.  Those of you who know of the
Gough/Wentworth technique for producing large whole organ
section may like to know I knew Jim Wentworth pretty well and he
was still engaged in competitive (and teaching) ballroom dancing in
his eighties.  It may have been the attractive ladies that kept up his
interest, but his prolonged and intense exposure to formalin fumes
certainly allowed him to indulge.  Well, did not inhibit him.
I know its unpleasant stuff, but Jim's colleague, and sometimes
rival in the same lab, George Armstrong, a founder member of our
Institute in the UK back in 1927 (ish) was an even more ardent
admirer of attractive ladies and to an even greater age.
The only disease noticed in a survey of death rates amongst
pathology workers carried out in the UK a few years ago, found
only a slight increase in lymphomas and brain tumours, and even
that was confined to pathologists.  TB was the only significant
cause of death in lab staff.
So what i'm asking is; please, someone tell me the evidence.

Russ Allison,
Dental School

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