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July 6, 1984

Hazards of Administering Long-term Formalin Treatment

Author Affiliations

Professional Consultants in Occupational Health, Inc Bethesda, Md

JAMA. 1984;252(1):44. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350010024010

To the Editor.—  During the period 1979 to 1983, a blunder by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on "formaldehyde" led to widespread public anxiety about safe levels of formaldehyde vapor in homes. For lack of any substantial evidence, the CPSC's rule was struck down.1 The commission confused the effects of highly concentrated formalin solutions, up to 370,000 ppm, weight per volume, with normal background levels of vapor as low as 0.03 to 0.12 ppm, volume per volume. Scientific support could not be produced to show that trace home levels of formaldehyde vapor caused immunologic allergy in humans. The theory of such allergy to vapor has been broadly rejected by scientific consensus groups.2,3In the wake of that ban, however, thousands of persons continue to be treated for the condition "formaldehyde allergy" by instillation of formalin drops onto the mucosa of mouth or into skin by subcutaneous

Gulf South Insulation et al v CPSC, 701 F2d 1137 (Fifth Cir 1983).
National Center for Toxicological Research:  Consensus Workshop on Formaldehyde , Jefferson, Ark, (Oct 3) -6, 1983.
Hoey JR, Turcotte F, Couet S, et al:  Health risks in homes insulated with urea-formaldehyde foam .  Can Med Assoc J 1983;130:115-117.
US Consumer Product Safety Commission:  Ban of urea formaldehyde foam insulation .  Federal Register 1983;47( (April 2) ):14366-14421.