Opinions and critical review on the formaldehyde profile.

Carlo Sala


Formaldehyde has a simple chemical structure, and is one of the most reactive aldehydes.

It is an economically important chemical in the wordl. The most common use of formaldehyde is in the production of synthetic resins, that are used as adhesives in particleboard, fiberboard, and plywood. Formaldehyde is also used in textiles to mold plastic parts for automobiles, home appliances, hardware, garden equipment, and sporting equipment; to preserve dried food, fish, oils, and fats; to disinfect containers in the food industry; and, in agriculture, as a preservative,

fumigant, germicide, fungicide, and insecticide. [See Review of the Formaldehyde Assessment in the National Toxicology Program 12th Report on Carcinogens (26 Review of the Formaldehyde Assessment in the NTP 12th Report on Carcinogens)]. Formaldehyde has a complex hygienistyc profile due to high reactivity, to many possible sources both environmental and occupational, to the fact that formaldehyde is produced naturally in humans and other animals as an “essential metabolic intermediate in all cells and is produced endogenously from serine, glycine, ethionine, and choline, and from the demethylation of N-, O-, S-, methyl compounds”.

IARC has reviewed formaldehyde several times, concluding with increasing step by step certainty that formaldehyde causes cancer in humans. In 1982, it was classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”; in 1987 and 1995 it was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. In 2006, IARC “concluded that there was sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of formaldehyde in humans”. IARC again listed formaldehyde as carcinogenic to humans in 2012.

Many critical opinions are reported.


Sources, Applications, History, Physical and Chemical Properties, Reactivity, Exposure and Risk Assessment, Guidelines

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