Dangers of Working with Formaldehyde

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Baltimore workers' compensation lawyers discuss the dangers of working with formaldehyde.Contrary to what many people believe, formaldehyde is not just a preservative used in mortuaries and laboratories. It is used as a disinfectant, germicide, and industrial fungicide as well. It can also be found in household products, permanent press fabrics, plywood, particle board, glues, and chemicals. Formaldehyde is actually a gas that is found in water-based solutions. It is colorless, can be recognized by its strong smell, and its exposure can lead to serious health consequences.

Health Hazards

Formaldehyde is a sensitizing agent that can cause an immune system response upon initial exposure. This includes irritation to one’s nose, throat, and eyes, and can lead to wheezing and coughing. Continued exposure may lead to serious allergic reactions to the respiratory tract, eyes, and skin.

Long-term exposure to lower levels on the skin or in the air could lead to itching, dermatitis, or asthma-like respiratory conditions. Concentrations of 100 parts per million (ppm) are life-threating; the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that 20 ppm of formaldehyde is life-threatening. Ingesting it can be deadly, and it is also a cancer hazard.

Employees can be exposed to formaldehyde if it is inhaled as a gas or absorbed into the skin in liquid form. Treating certain textiles and producing resins can also cause exposure. High-risk professions include mortuary workers, lab technicians, health care professionals, teachers, and students.

OSHA Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict guidelines pertaining to formaldehyde exposure. The permissible workplace limit is 0.75 parts formaldehyde per million parts of air. This is measured at an eight-hour time-weighted average. The short-term exposure limit is two ppm for a 15-minute period.

Other rules include identifying and educating workers who are exposed, clearly labeling mixtures, and providing employees with the needed personal protective equipment. These standards generally apply when solutions and mixtures have more than 0.1 percent formaldehyde. Protective equipment includes chemical splash goggles, aprons, gloves, and water-resistant clothing.

All workers exposed to formaldehyde at certain levels should also be provided with medical surveillance. Anyone who shows symptoms or overexposure should be reassigned to other work, and emergency plans should be in place for employees who have serious adverse effects.

Ways to Reduce Risks

There are other ways to reduce formaldehyde exposure risks, one being to try and find a substitute agent that is less hazardous. Another way is to modify the equipment, processes, and facilities. For example, vans and ventilation systems can be installed to remove vapors. Some companies design and implement exposure control plans, post warning signs, and adjust their work practices in other ways to protect their employees.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Employees Suffering from Formaldehyde Exposure

The effects of formaldehyde exposure can be immediate or take time to develop, and your health and safety may not be a priority for your employer. If you were injured due to formaldehyde exposure, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton today. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 844-556-4LAW (4529). Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.