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Formaldehyde Safety

by Erin Foley last modified Oct 25, 2011 01:29 PM

Formaldehyde Safety Training

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas with a strong, pungent odor. 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 preservatives and in embalming fluids in autopsy rooms, pathology department, and laboratory specimens;
  • Kidney dialysis units and central supply as a sterilizing agent;
  • Some disinfectants and consumer products

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 and 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 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.

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




















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