Send to

Choose Destination
Arch Toxicol. 2010 Jun;84(6):423-46. doi: 10.1007/s00204-010-0549-1. Epub 2010 May 14.

Cancer effects of formaldehyde: a proposal for an indoor air guideline value.

Author information

National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Lersø Parkallé 105, 2100, Copenhagen Ø, Denmark.


Formaldehyde is a ubiquitous indoor air pollutant that is classified as "Carcinogenic to humans (Group 1)" (IARC, Formaldehyde, 2-butoxyethanol and 1-tert-butoxypropanol-2-ol. IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans, vol 88. World Health Organization, Lyon, pp 39-325, 2006). For nasal cancer in rats, the exposure-response relationship is highly non-linear, supporting a no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL) that allows setting a guideline value. Epidemiological studies reported no increased incidence of nasopharyngeal cancer in humans below a mean level of 1 ppm and peak levels below 4 ppm, consistent with results from rat studies. Rat studies indicate that cytotoxicity-induced cell proliferation (NOAEL at 1 ppm) is a key mechanism in development of nasal cancer. However, the linear unit risk approach that is based on conservative ("worst-case") considerations is also used for risk characterization of formaldehyde exposures. Lymphohematopoietic malignancies are not observed consistently in animal studies and if caused by formaldehyde in humans, they are high-dose phenomenons with non-linear exposure-response relationships. Apparently, these diseases are not reported in epidemiological studies at peak exposures below 2 ppm and average exposures below 0.5 ppm. At the similar airborne exposure levels in rodents, the nasal cancer effect is much more prominent than lymphohematopoietic malignancies. Thus, prevention of nasal cancer is considered to prevent lymphohematopoietic malignancies. Departing from the rat studies, the guideline value of the WHO (Air quality guidelines for Europe, 2nd edn. World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen, pp 87-91, 2000), 0.08 ppm (0.1 mg m(-3)) formaldehyde, is considered preventive of carcinogenic effects in compliance with epidemiological findings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center