|Formaldehyde determined as cancer-causing chemical|
|Written by Katie Klein, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Tuesday, 21 June 2011 16:57|
The National Toxicology Program released the 12th Report on Carcinogens on Friday, June 20, which listed formaldehyde and other substances as cancer-causing agents, according to a June 13 CNN article.
According to the article, formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical typically found in industrial settings. Formaldehyde can be found in building materials, lab and mortuary preservatives and also cigarette smoke.
The NTP listed consumer goods containing the dangerous chemical, including some hair smoothing and straightening products commonly used in salons.
Also, the NTP states indoor air may contain higher amounts of formaldehyde than outdoor air.
While some products with the chemical are used in everyday settings, the general public has little need to worry.
“Most people have minimal exposure to formaldehyde, but those that are exposed regularly, usually on the job, may have an increased risk of cancer,” Dr. Jean Swearingen, medical director for Student Health Services, said.
Swearingen added many products contain formaldehyde, like carpet, but the amounts of formaldehyde are so small the average person does not have a high enough exposure to cause any significant damage.
The NTP website cites the evidence of formaldehyde as a carcinogen from studies completed on workers who were exposed to high amounts of the chemical.
The workers, such as embalmers and industrial workers, were found to have myeloid leukemia and rare cancers targeting the nose and throat.
Testing in animals also found the chemical caused cancer in the nasal cavity and clearly showed genetic damages in the nasal sinus. Testing carcinogens on animals is a method often used when looking at the possibility of a product causing cancer.
“Much testing is done in lab animals by looking for production of cancer or mutation of the DNA. Usually some suspicions arise over time that a substance may cause cancer. Most newly produced chemicals are tested for possible cancer-causing properties before being put on the market,” Swearingen said.
There are products out on the market that display their formaldehyde content on the label.
“Ultra-low emitting formaldehyde” and “no added formaldehyde” are examples of statements to look for on labels for the lowest risk materials, according to the NTP website.
Buying formaldehyde-free products is not the only precaution people can take. Swearingen said ventilation isa key step as well.
“Ventilate areas well where formaldehyde gasses may build up, and wash off skin exposure,” Swearingen said.
The NTP recommends using fans to bring new air into a room where a formaldehyde product has been added.
Air conditioning and dehumidifiers help to maintain normal temperatures and lower humidity levels, which help to lower the exposure of the chemical also.