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Am J Ind Med. 1988;14(4):479-88.

Antibodies and immune profiles of individuals occupationally exposed to formaldehyde: six case reports.

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  • 1Thrasher & Associates, Northridge, California.


Six patients with multiple subjective health complaints, which have been correlated with chronic exposure to formaldehyde during the course of their education and occupations, were tested for the existence of antibodies (IgE, IgM, and IgG) to formaldehyde (F) conjugated to human serum albumin (F-HSA). In addition, the percentage and absolute numbers of peripheral lymphocyte subpopulations as determined by surface markers were investigated. Antibody titers to F-HSA were present as follows: IgE (2 patients), IgM (3 of 4 tested patients), and IgG (5 patients). Analysis of lymphocyte subpopulations showed T-helper/suppressor (H/S) ratios ranging from 0.8 to 3.3. All 6 patients had elevated Tal cells (antigen memory cells), whereas interleuken 2 receptor positive cells were within expected values. Following formaldehyde exposure, 5 of the patients complained of an initial flulike illness from which they have not completely recovered. The sixth individual had a history of recurrent respiratory infections and surgical removal of hyperplastic ethmoid sinus tissue. The common occurrence of anti-F-HSA antibodies, flulike illness, and Tal cells are interpreted as suggestive of a chronic antigenic stimulation of the immune system in these 6 patients. Further immunological work-up of additional subjects and immune parameters with similar history of formaldehyde exposure and subjective health complaints is warranted.

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