Overregulating the chemistry industry jeopardizes innovation, jobs, and economic growth. Learn more.

Sahar Osman-Sypher

Formaldehyde: One of the Most Well-Studied Chemicals

Formaldehyde is one of the most well-studied substances and we know a lot about how to use it safely. People actually produce and exhale formaldehyde themselves. If a person is exposed to formaldehyde, the body breaks it down rapidly.

Dozens of peer–reviewed studies — support a safe exposure level to formaldehyde that is higher than typical concentrations in our homes and protective of worker health.

Formaldehyde Does Not Cause Leukemia

Formaldehyde is one of the most well-studied substances with numerous epidemiology, toxicology, and mechanistic studies conducted in the last decade that improve the current understanding of the potential health effects associated with this chemical. In the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review of EPA’s 2010 draft Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment, the Committee noted that conclusions related to a causal association between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia by the EPA were problematic given the understanding of the available science at that time.

Recently, a team of epidemiologists and toxicologists released a state-of-the-science systematic review of studies that focus on the relationship between inhaled formaldehyde and lymphohematopoietic cancers (LHP’s), including myeloid leukemia. The paper “Assessment of associations between inhaled formaldehyde and lymphohematopoietic cancer through integration of epidemiological and toxicological evidence with biological plausibility” was published in March 2024 in Toxicological Sciences, the official journal of the Society of Toxicology. This new review takes advantage of advances in the field of systematic review methodology to assess the likelihood of a causal relationship between formaldehyde and LHP cancers. It found no evidence of systemic delivery of inhaled formaldehyde to bone marrow – where LHP cancers are formed – or blood, following inhalation of formaldehyde.  Therefore, causation is unlikely and this systematic review has shown that it cannot be concluded that formaldehyde causes LHP cancers.

After additional years of study, and numerous published scientific papers, recent science continues to strengthen the evidence that formaldehyde is not causally associated with leukemia at any exposure level, a view shared by the European Union and others. Formaldehyde science has also demonstrated clearly defined safe thresholds for formaldehyde exposure for other health effects.

Extensively Regulated

Formaldehyde is an extensively regulated material. Mandatory government regulations set standards to protect human health and the environment. These requirements support for the safe production, storage, handling and use of this important building block chemical.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has standards for workplace exposures to formaldehyde. These comprehensive health standards include limits on permissible exposures, requirements for monitoring employee exposures in the workplace, protective measures—including engineering controls, medical surveillance, and communication—and training about hazards.

Three agencies – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – have addressed indoor air exposure to formaldehyde. HUD has standards that limit formaldehyde emissions from wood products for use in manufactured housing. Since industry voluntarily adopted product emission standards and low-emitting resins were developed, indoor formaldehyde emissions have declined significantly. CPSC determined that independent CPSC action was unnecessary given the voluntary actions and low levels of formaldehyde emissions. In 2010, Congress enacted legislation mandating a national emission standard for composite wood products.

Industry’s Formaldehyde Research Investment

Given formaldehyde’s wide use, extensive product stewardship efforts have been implemented.  In addition, the formaldehyde industry has invested millions of dollars in conducting state-of-the-art scientific research. These efforts have included scientific research evaluating potential associations between formaldehyde and cancers; quantifying thresholds for formaldehyde exposure; and understanding differences between formaldehyde found in the environment and formaldehyde produced by normal body processes. This work is critical information and should be incorporated in regulatory and scientific policy decision-making in the U.S. and abroad.

We use cookies to personalize content and ads, to provide social media features, and to analyze our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.

Privacy Policy - Terms & Conditions