Also called formalin, formaldehyde is a product widely used in certain professions. According to a recent report, its exposure can cause myeloid leukemia. How to avoid such risks? Are we all exposed to this substance? Discover practical advice from our experts.
Used by many health professionals, formalin or formaldehyde is a powerful chemical. It allows for example, in embalming, to preserve organisms, or in a hospital environment to disinfect… We also find it in our interiors, because formaldehyde is used in the composition of certain objects, such as chipboard furniture.
A proven link between exposure to formaldehyde and myeloid leukemia
Due to their professional activity, some people are very exposed to formalin. In funeral services, healthcare sectors and even in carpentry work… Formaldehyde is everywhere.
According to the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES), the product is already classified as “carcinogenic by various European or international organizations, in particular in relation to nasopharyngeal cancer.. From now on, she announces the establishment of a “proven causal relationship between occupational exposure to formaldehyde and myeloid leukemia“.
Difficulties in having their pathology recognized as an occupational illness
Problem: few patients, once ill, take steps to apply for recognition as an occupational disease for myeloid leukemia. According to ANSES, “studies show that hematologists have very unequal knowledge of occupational risk factors and the functioning of the recognition system“.
In addition to this fact, the Agency notes that for certain professionals, such as those in cleaning, their “Often fragmented professional trajectories make it difficult to identify and trace exposure to dangerous substances“For ANSES, doctors, both onco-hematologists and occupational physicians, have”an important role to play in improving” the situation.
Are we exposed to formaldehyde at home?
The question that arises for the general population is whether or not they are exposed to formalin on a daily basis.
Questioned, Dr Laurent Chevallier, nutritionist and specialist in VOCs, these volatile organic compounds, the family to which formalin belongs, confirms that we can be exposed through chipboard furniture. “To avoid excessive exposure of the pregnant woman and her future baby, I advise either buying the furniture for the child’s bedroom at least one month before, and storing it in a ventilated room or a garage, to that these VOCs have time to eliminate themselves. Another possibility: buy second-hand furniture..
Are we exposed through everyday household products? “It’s possible” admits the doctor and author of the “Antitoxic Book” published by Le Livre de Pocket. He recommends, to avoid any risk, to favor eco-labeled products.
Dr Pierre Souvet, cardiologist and president of the Santé Environnement Europe (ASEF) association, is however more reassuring. “The exposure, although real, is however much less important than for professionals. There is no classification to help you find your way, unlike paints for example, which are classified from A+ to C depending on their VOC release, therefore formaldehyde.“.
A classification which has the merit of existing, without however being perfect. “Labeling is mandatory for these products, but independent controls are not. When the products were tested by 60 million consumers, we noticed that certain products were outclassed. But let us still emphasize that the vast majority have the correct labeling” adds the doctor.
How to eliminate formaldehyde in the air?
To avoid breathing these products at home, Dr Souvet offers several tips:
- Ventilate your home for ten minutes morning and evening, when you are there;
- Have good ventilation, with pipes and grilles that allow air to circulate well
- Do not smoke indoors, cigarettes obviously, but also electronic cigarettes, which can emit formaldehyde in small doses.