Your Personal Injury Lawyer in Dallas
Contact Us Today for the Representation You Deserve 469.757.4055

Formaldehyde explosure linked to causing certain forms of cancer

Industrial workers who are exposed to formaldehyde may be at an increased risk of dying from blood and lymphatic cancers, particularly myeloid leukemia but also Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

If you or a loved on has been diagnosed with cancer (including blood and lymphatic cancers, particularly myeloid leukemia but also Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma) and were exposed to formaldehyde , contact the toxic tort lawyers at GRESHAM pc for a no-cost consultation.

Formaldehyde is a chemical that is widely used in industrial plants as a preservative or disinfectant. It has been classified as a carcinogen because of its association with nasopharyngeal cancer. Furthermore, it has been shown that the risk of leukemia increases as peak exposure to formaldehyde increases.

The National Cancer Institute's formaldehyde cohort includes a group of 25,619 workers who were employed in one of 10 industrial plants before 1966. The plants either manufactured formaldehyde or used it. The original study included deaths through 1979. The study was then extended to include deaths from 1980 to 1994. Now researchers have extended this study a third time to include deaths through 2004.

The researchers evaluated peak exposure, average intensity, and cumulative exposure. For each job, they estimated the continuous eight-hour, time-weighted average formaldehyde intensity, referred to as TWA8. This exposure was expressed in parts per million (ppm) and divided into categories: 0-.5 ppm, .5-2.0 ppm, 2.0-4.0 ppm, or greater than 4.0 ppm. A peak exposure was defined as a short-term exposure (less than 15 minutes) that exceeded the TWA8 category.

After a follow-up of over 40 years, the researchers found a statistically significant association between peak formaldehyde exposure and death from all blood and lymphatic cancers combined. Workers with the highest peak exposures were 37% more likely to die from blood and lymphatic cancers than those with the lowest level of peak exposures. Furthermore, the risk of death from myeloid leukemia was 78% higher among workers with the highest peak exposure to formaldehyde compared with those with the lowest peak exposures.

The researchers concluded that there is a possible link between formaldehyde exposure and blood and lymphatic cancers.

Formaldehyde is a chemical found in low levels in certain building and household products. Importantly for railroad workers operating diesel locomotives, formaldehyde is also a component of diesel exhaust. Formaldehyde has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a carcinogen (cancer causing substance) and by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a probable human carcinogen. Most recently, on June 10, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services changed the classification of Formaldehyde from "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" to a "known human carcinogen". These agencies have drawn these conclusions on the basis of reviewing many medical studies that have been published which have examined the relationship between formaldehyde and different types of cancer. The cancers most closely associated with formaldehyde exposure are leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer.

Several National Cancer Institute (NCI) surveys of professionals who are potentially exposed to formaldehyde in their work, such as anatomists and embalmers, have suggested that these individuals are at an increased risk of leukemia and brain cancer compared with the general population.  An NCI case-control study among funeral industry workers that characterized exposure to formaldehyde also found an association between increasing formaldehyde exposure and mortality from myeloid leukemia


One national railroad, CSX Transportation, recently added the following language to its safety rule book: "formaldehyde is a carcinogen of the nasal passages." However, for whatever reason, other railroads have not followed suit. As a result, many railroad workers are not aware of the association between formaldehyde and cancer. The failure of certain railroads to warn is a violation of the Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA), 45 USC Section 51, which makes railroads responsible for injuries to employees as a result of any failure to provide a reasonably safe place to work. One of the obligations imposed by the FELA is a duty to warn employees about any unsafe conditions they may encounter in the course of their employment.

For more information on Formaldehyde, visit the National Cancer Institute.  If you or a loved on has been diagnosed with cancer and were exposed to formaldehyde over long periods of time, contact the toxic tort lawyers at GRESHAM pc for a no-cost consultation.