Formaldehyde Safety

What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas with a strong, pungent order. It is widely used in hospitals, laboratories and some disinfectants throughout the university. Formaldehyde is present in liquid form in an aqueous methanol solution called Formalin, which has a clear to milky appearance, and in solid polymer form as a white powder called Paraformaldehyde. Formaldehyde gas may be given off by either liquid Formalin or Paraformaldehyde powder.

Uses of formaldehyde commonly seen at the university include:

      • Tissue preservation & in embalming fluids in; autopsy rooms, the pathology department, and laboratory specimens
      • Kidney dialysis units & as a sterilizing agent in central supply rooms
      • Some disinfectants & consumer products

If a university employee finds or suspects potential exposure to formaldehyde, please contact DEHS at 852-2830.


Formaldehyde's odor may be readily detected by some people. Many others, however, may not be able to smell it at all. Therefore, the sense of smell cannot be relied upon to warn workers. Rather, irritation of the; eyes, nose, bronchial tubes, and watering eyes may indicate exposure to formaldehyde more often than the sense of smell. Please refer to the Training Module for more information.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates formaldehyde in the workplace. Accordingly, the University requires all employees potentially exposed to formaldehyde to complete a web-based training module informing them of the potential hazards, hazard controls, and when to contact DEHS staff for a follow-up evaluation. Please see the links below for the OSHA Standard and Regulations for formaldehyde.

Department of Environmental Health And Safety

Main Office

1800 Arthur Street

Louisville, Kentucky 40208


tel (502) 852-6670

fax (502) 852-0880

Department of Environmental Health And Safety

Radiation Safety Office

319 Abraham Flexner Way

Louisville, Kentucky 40202


tel (502) 852-5231

fax (502) 852-8911

Office Hours

M-F 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

No holiday hours

IH Service Account

IBC Service Account