Clemson University

Special Precautions for Work with Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a particularly hazardous substance that is widely in university labs and is covered under a specific OSHA Standard 1910.1048. CU must identify all laboratory activities that are above the OSHA action level or STEL through initial air monitoring and provide training, medical surveillance, and engineering and work practice controls if air levels warrant it.

Formaldehyde is an animal carcinogen and a suspected human carcinogen according to OSHA and IARC. It is also a sensitizer and can cause allergic skin reactions and asthma-like respiratory symptoms. It is an irritant to eyes, nose, and throat. Please note that the perception of formaldehyde by odor or eye irritation becomes less sensitive with time as one’s body adapts to the formaldehyde.

Almost all formaldehyde procedures should be performed with ventilation such as a chemical hood, slot hood, or vented downdraft table. All work should be done using gloves with adequate resistance to formaldehyde, such as the Best N-Dex brand (a disposable nitrile glove).

With proper exhaust ventilation, you should not detect any odors from formaldehyde work nor experience any symptoms of exposure such as eye tearing or throat irritation.