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One of the most common chemicals found in the lab today is Formaldehyde. It’s well known as a preservative, but has also been used as an embalming fluid and as a sterilizer. It’s found in a variety of products, as an addition to chemicals, household products, glues, and even wood. Furthermore, it’s widely used as an industrial fungicide, germicide, and disinfectant.
Application & Use
Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong smelling gas usually found in water based solutions. It’s typically used as a reagent in laboratories and is a mixture of formaldehyde, water, and alcohol. There is a high likelihood you will be using Formaldehyde solutions on a regular basis. Depending on the type of lab you are working in, they can be used for fixing human tissue and organs after autopsy or biopsy, and as a preservative and disinfectant in embalming fluids, gels and surface packs. They are also used for flushing and cleaning kidney dialysis machines. Analytical laboratories use formaldehyde as a reagent as they test other substances.
Risks & Exposures
Formaldehyde can be toxic through inhalation, skin contact and by swallowing. The most common application as a gas leads to airborne concentration concerns in closed environments. Any action level, or when exposure is over 0.5 parts per million over an eight hour period, is when your environment should have increased industrial hygiene monitoring and the initiation of worker medical surveillance.
The first step in any preventative measures is to identify those environments and workers who may be at risk. If any workers who suffer significant adverse effects may be reassigned to environments where reduced or limited exposure until they are fully recovered.