Re: Formaldehyde fumes

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From:Peter Haabestad <> (by way of histonet)
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Russ makes some very noteworthy arguments regarding formaldehyde.  To further
support his opinion, many of us on the histonet would benefit from ordering
the recent Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology report dated September
28, 1999 on Formaldehyde .  The report is about 200 pages in
length and is the most comprehensive study done on the effects of
formaldehyde on humans in recent history.  The new risk assessment is very
good news for formaldehyde users in that estimates of cancer risk in humans
exposed to low levels of formaldehyde are many orders of magnitude lower than
previous assessments.  Specifically, the new risk assessment indicates risks
as low as 4.1 additional cancers per 1,000,000,000 (one billion) for
non-smoking workers exposed to 0.1 ppm in an occupational environment.  The
additional risk for non-smoking workers at 0.5 ppm is 4.1 per 100,000,000
(one hundred million).


> '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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