Formaldehyde is a colourless, pungent gas that finds widespread use across a range of sectors and uses. It has the chemical formula CH2O and is a straightforward organic molecule.
1. Formaldehyde is used in a wide range of industrial processes, including:
a. It is an essential component in the manufacture of resins such as urea-formaldehyde resins, phenol-formaldehyde resins, and melamine-formaldehyde resins. Plywood, particleboard, laminates, and other wood-based goods are all made using these resins.
b. Chemical Intermediates: The synthesis of many compounds, including solvents, polymers, textiles, dyes, and medications, uses formaldehyde as a precursor.
c. Biocide and disinfectant: Formaldehyde is a disinfectant and preservative that is used in mortuaries, medical labs, and some consumer goods.
d. Embalming: To preserve cadavers for anatomical research or funerals, it is used in the embalming procedure.
e. Textile Industry: Resins based on formaldehyde are used to treat fabrics and apparel to prevent wrinkles.
2. Health Effects: The National Toxicology Programme (NTP) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) both classify formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde can irritate the respiratory system, the eyes, the skin, and even trigger allergic reactions. Additionally, certain cancers and respiratory conditions may be facilitated by it.
3. Regulations and Safety Measures: To safeguard public health and the environment, many nations have put restrictions on formaldehyde emissions and exposure levels in a variety of products, including consumer goods and wood-based materials. In fields where formaldehyde is employed, proper ventilation, PPE use, and safe handling procedures are crucial.
4. Formaldehyde can be released indoors from a number of things, including building supplies, furniture, carpets, and consumer goods. When formaldehyde levels are high indoors, it can cause "sick building syndrome" and have a negative impact on people's health. As a result, it's critical to maintain adequate ventilation and lower formaldehyde emissions from indoor sources.
5. Alternatives and mitigation: Work is being done to lessen formaldehyde emissions and create safer substitutes. For instance, low- or no-formaldehyde resins and adhesives are utilised in the manufacture of wood products, and alternative wrinkle-resistant methods are being investigated in the textile sector.
When working with formaldehyde, it is crucial to adhere to safety rules, guidelines, and best practises to reduce exposure and mitigate any potential health concerns.