Formaldehyde is a commonly used organic compound produced from the oxidation of methanol. It's why it's also called methanal. At room temperature, it is a gas but it can be converted into various derivatives for industrial purposes.
In the gas form, it is colorless and flammable. It's also found in a number of products. A product contains formaldehyde if it contains:
- phenol formaldehyde
- methylene oxide
Examples of products that contain this compound are:
- carpet cleaners
- air fresheners
- nail enamels
- pharmaceutical products
Exposure to this chemical, either inhalation of its gaseous form or ingestion of its liquid form, may result in formaldehyde poisoning.
Types of Formaldehyde Poisoning
There are two types of formaldehyde poisoning:
- acute formaldehyde poisoning
- chronic formaldehyde poisoning
Acute Formaldehyde Poisoning refers to the exposure to a significant amount of this chemical but only for a brief time. This type of poisoning produces short-term symptoms or side effects.
Chronic Formaldehyde Poisoning refers to the long-term and continuous exposure to the chemical that can result in permanent damage to health. Chronic formaldehyde poisoning primarily affects the respiratory system and brings about ailments like:
This type of poisoning is fatal and therefore requires immediate medical attention.
Signs and Symptoms
To know if someone has been poisoned with this chemical, signs and symptoms include:
- irritation in the eyes, nose and throat
- stuffy or runny nose
- skin rash
- skin injury
- sore throat
- chest tightness
- difficulty in breathing
- burnt stomach or esophagus (if the chemical was ingested)
- irregular breathing
- asthma attacks
- hypotension (high blood pressure)
- loss of consciousness
- coma and death
On top of all these, formaldehyde poisoning can ultimately lead to coma and death, particularly if the chemical was ingested through mouth.
Since formaldehyde is also a carcinogen, it is believed that constant exposure to this can significantly increase the risk of cancer, lung and brain cancers in particular.
Detection and Prevention
Presence of formaldehyde inside the body can be detected through a patch test. Medications and drugs designed for this purpose are available. Since formaldehyde poisoning is life-threatening, it is crucial to seek medical attention right away.
It's also vital to find the root cause of the poisoning so that the sources can be eliminated and recurrence may be prevented. Other preventive measures for formaldehyde poisoning include the following:
- limit use of products that contain this chemical
- read labels of products before buying or using
- keep these products away from children's reach
Invest on formaldehyde test kits to examine the indoor air quality of homes and buildings. This will allow you to measure the level of formaldehyde inside your home. For occupational exposure to this chemical, it's a must to practice appropriate safety measures to downsize the health hazards linked to formaldehyde exposure.