To the Editor.—
The article on formaldehyde by Harris et al (1981; 245:243) reflects a severely restricted point of view. The article is further complicated because the citations do not correspond with the text, and the references cited have not been accurately reviewed. For example, in the Gofmekler1 study, the actual number of offspring in the formaldehyde-exposed rats was higher than controls (208, 235, and 135 for 0.8, 0.01, and 0 ppm formaldehyde, respectively). Marks et al2 has demonstrated that oral formaldehyde, even in toxic doses, does not produce statistically significant teratogenic effects in the fetuses of surviving dams.Harris et al apparently "confirmed" that formaldehyde can cause sensitization and airway obstruction based on the article by Schoenberg and Mitchell3—a cross-sectional study that lacked appropriate controls, included small numbers of exposed subjects, and did not exclude the contribution of parent resins, phenol, and acrylic breakdown products.
Bender JR, Reinhardt CF, Mullin LS. Formaldehyde Toxicity. JAMA. 1982;248(3):308–309. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330030022011