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Environ Int. 2010 Oct;36(7):788-99. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2010.05.012. Epub 2010 Jun 16.

Non-cancer effects of formaldehyde and relevance for setting an indoor air guideline.

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


There is considerable recent focus and concern about formaldehyde (FA). We have reviewed the literature on FA with focus on chemosensory perception in the airways and lung effects in indoor environments. Concentrations of FA, both personal and stationary, are on average in the order of 0.05 mg/m(3) or less in Europe and North America with the exception of new housing or buildings with extensive wooden surfaces, where the concentration may exceed 0.1 mg/m(3). With the eye the most sensitive organ, subjective irritation is reported at 0.3-0.5 mg/m(3), which is somewhat higher than reported odour thresholds. Objective effects in the eyes and airways occur around 0.6-1 mg/m(3). Dose-response relationships between FA and lung function effects have not been found in controlled human exposure studies below 1 mg/m(3), and epidemiological associations between FA concentrations and exacerbation of asthma in children and adults are encumbered by complex exposures. Neither experimental nor epidemiological studies point to major differences in susceptibility to FA among children, elderly, and asthmatics. People with personal trait of negative affectivity may report more symptoms. An air quality guideline of 0.1 mg/m(3) (0.08 ppm) is considered protective against both acute and chronic sensory irritation in the airways in the general population assuming a log normal distribution of nasal sensory irritation.

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