Skip to main content
Select Source:

Formaldehyde

FORMALDEHYDE

Formaldehyde is a simple, highly reactive hydrocarbon that is used as a fixative in the pathology laboratory, as a fumigant, and in the manufacture of foam insulation, cosmetics, drugs, clothing, and furniture. It is also a major toxic component of photochemical smog. Formaldehyde is a strong allergen and irritant to which humans have a very low odor threshold (less than 1 ppm), and it is carcinogenic in the rat bioassay via the inhalation route. Formaldehyde increases airway resistance when inhaled, probably because of local irritation and release of inflammatory mediators. Additionally, formaldehyde is a strong contact allergen. Both pulmonary changes and dermatologic symptoms have been reported in the occupational setting. Acute and chronic dermatitis was once a common complaint in the beauty parlor industry because of using formaldehyde in fingernail finishes. Histology and pathology laboratories were common sites of high levels of exposure. However, after the report of nasal tumors in rats, industrial hygiene measures were instituted to minimize exposure. This was also true in the garment industry, where formaldehyde was used in the manufacture of permanent press fabrics.

Formaldehyde residues are major constituents of smog. An overwhelming percentage of the aldehyde in smog is formaldehyde. It is through smog that the general population is most broadly exposed. Because of its irritant and allergenic properties, formaldehyde is considered one of the possible etiologic agents involved in the well-documented asthma incidents that have occurred in relation to moderate to severe smog events. Another source of exposure to the general public in indoor air is off-gassing from fabrics and foam materials. These levels are considerably lower than photochemical smog concentrations, but they are more insidious because of the ambient nature of the exposure. In house fires, formaldehyde residues in fabrics and foams play a major role in the toxicity of smoke.

The greatest risk for injury from formaldehyde is in a workplace with minimal industrial hygiene measures. The greatest danger of formaldehyde is to those individuals who have compromised pulmonary function.

Michael Gallo

(see also: Ambient Air Quality [Air Pollution]; Asthma; Occupational Safety and Health )

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Formaldehyde." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Formaldehyde." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/formaldehyde

"Formaldehyde." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/formaldehyde

formaldehyde

formaldehyde (fôrmăl´dəhīd´), HCHO, the simplest aldehyde. It melts at -92°C, boils at -21°C, and is soluble in water, alcohol, and ether; at STP, it is a flammable, poisonous, colorless gas with a suffocating odor. Formaldehyde is used in the preparation of dyes, in the production of Bakelite and other plastics and synthetic resins, and for several other purposes, such as in glues and adhesives used to produce laminated and composite woods and wood products. Pure gaseous formaldehyde is uncommon, since it readily polymerizes into paraformaldehyde, a white crystalline solid. Paraformaldehyde in the form of candles has been used for fumigating rooms, since it yields formaldehyde when heated. Formalin is a 40% by volume solution of formaldehyde in water, usually with a small amount of methanol (methyl alcohol) added to prevent polymerization; it is used as an antiseptic, disinfectant, and preservative for biological materials. Formaldehyde is prepared commercially by passing methanol vapor mixed with air over a catalyst, e.g., hot copper, to cause oxidation of the methanol; it is also prepared by the oxidation of natural gas. It forms formic acid when it is oxidized. The IUPAC name for formaldehyde is methanal.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"formaldehyde." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"formaldehyde." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/formaldehyde

"formaldehyde." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/formaldehyde

formaldehyde

formaldehyde (for-mal-di-hyd) n. the aldehyde derivative of formic acid, formerly used as a vapour to sterilize and disinfect rooms and such items as mattresses and blankets. The toxic vapour is produced by boiling formalin in an open container or using it in a sealed autoclave.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"formaldehyde." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"formaldehyde." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/formaldehyde

"formaldehyde." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/formaldehyde

formaldehyde

form·al·de·hyde / fôrˈmaldəˌhīd; fər-/ • n. Chem. a colorless pungent gas, CH2O, in solution made by oxidizing methanol.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"formaldehyde." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"formaldehyde." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/formaldehyde-0

"formaldehyde." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/formaldehyde-0

formaldehyde

formaldehyde Alternative name for methanal

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"formaldehyde." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"formaldehyde." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/formaldehyde

"formaldehyde." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/formaldehyde

formaldehyde

formaldehydeabide, applied, aside, astride, backslide, beside, bestride, betide, bide, bride, chide, Clyde, cockeyed, coincide, collide, confide, cried, decide, divide, dried, elide, five-a-side, glide, guide, hide, hollow-eyed, I'd, implied, lied, misguide, nationwide, nide, offside, onside, outride, outside, pan-fried, pied, pie-eyed, popeyed, pride, provide, ride, Said, shied, side, slide, sloe-eyed, snide, square-eyed, starry-eyed, statewide, Strathclyde, stride, subdivide, subside, tide, tried, undyed, wall-eyed, wide, worldwide •carbide • unmodified •overqualified, unqualified •dignified, signified •unverified • countrified •unpurified • unclassified •unspecified • sissified • unsanctified •self-satisfied, unsatisfied •unidentified • unquantified •unfortified • unjustified • uncertified •formaldehyde • oxhide • rawhide •cowhide • allied • landslide • bolide •paraglide • polyamide • bromide •thalidomide • selenide • cyanide •unoccupied

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"formaldehyde." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"formaldehyde." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/formaldehyde

"formaldehyde." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/formaldehyde