Re: Formaldehyde fumes

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From:Amos Brooks <> (by way of histonet)
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Hi Russ,
    I'm curious... do you smoke? If not, why? Cigarette smoke is addictive
formaldehyde fumes are not. Formaldehyde is toxic, perhaps not as acutely as
many other chemicals but it is the most common hazardous material in the
histology lab. Constantly subjecting ones self to formaldehyde fumes will
inevitably, eventually cause side effects (just as smoking does, hence the
analogy). Perhaps you will live to be 60, 70 even 80 years, but overexposure
to these chemicals will have an effect on HOW you live and how much LONGER
you live.
    The long and short of it is that the people who make up the rules about
short and long term exposure limits have very good reasons for enforcing
these rules, and the justification for them can be found in the Material
Safety Data Sheets and in the common sense of the user of the chemical.
Amos Brooks


> '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
> Cardiff
> Wales

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