Re: Formaldehyde fumes

<< Previous Message | Next Message >>
From:"Cheryl S. Rehfeld" <> (by way of histonet)
Content-Type:text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

 Well, I don't know if this counts as proof and I don't have cancer but....
I once did whole body perfusions on dogs (10 liters of formalin per critter)
and I developed a permanent problem with my lungs.  This occurred around

The room we perfused the dogs in had practically no ventilation so air
quality was horrible.  We could hardly breathe, our eyes burned, and we had
to step out of the room quite often to recover.  The headaches were killers.
We tried to use the respirators for formalin but it made matters worse since
they were not fitted for each person.  I also had to refill the formalin
containers between perfusions by climbing up a ladder.  The conditions were
terrible and we did this for 1 week and 18 dogs.

Now we did go back and do another week of perfusions but we were moved into
walk-in inhalation chambers that were downdrafted and we couldn't smell
anything.  Too bad we put up with those conditions for even one week.

Everyone on the team ended up with bad colds, headaches, and sore throats
for weeks.  But for me perhaps because I have asthma I developed a problem
where my voice kept getting deeper and often I had no voice at all.  This
was especially prevalent when I got a small wiff of formalin  and I could
feel my lungs tighten up.  I went to the Dr. because of my voice problem and
she determined the problem came from my lungs not the vocal cords.  I was
tested and was down to 56% use of my lungs.  Further testing revealed I
wasn't able to exchange CO2 and O2 as efficiently.  They said if I limited
my exposure to formalin I would recover to 75 - 80% use of my lungs but they
would never be 100% again.

I try to stay away from formalin and now that I'm in sales it's easier.  At
the time it was more difficult working in the lab - but I was able to limit
my exposure since I primarily worked in the EM lab.  Now I have about 80%
usage and suffer no other side effects.  Well, I can't pass the respirator
test but then I'm not planning on going into anywhere that I would need one.

Cheryl Rehfeld

-----Original Message-----
To: <>
Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 8:27 AM
Subject: Formaldehyde fumes

'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

<< Previous Message | Next Message >>