Asthma caused by formaldehyde

  • Carpenter
  • Chemical industry
  • Cosmetics industry
  • Foundry worker
  • Hairdresser
  • Laboratory staff
  • Medical personnel
  • Mortician Thanatopracteur
  • Nurse
  • Paper industry
  • Plastics industry
  • Rubber industry
  • Tanner
Formaldehyde, Formol, Paraformaldehyde.
Incidence: 30% of exposed subjects may be affected.
The product causes irritation and liberation of histamine.
An IgE-dependent mechanism and the production of antibodies have been suggested by some researchers, however, both of these claims have been disputed by others.
The airborne concentration of the substance is important. The permissible level (2 ppm for 15 minutes) will cause problems for subjects with a bronchial hyperactivity. Both resin powders and gaseous forms of the product can induce symptoms. Recent studies (2001–2002) have demonstrated that an exposure level of 60 µg per m3 or above, increases the risk of the development of asthma in children.
Asthma attacks in the evening following exposure at work. The attacks may intensify for several nights after exposure (work) has been stopped. Cough, expectoration, rhinitis and conjunctivitis may be associated. Contact eczema, urticaria and Quincke's oedema may occur.
Diagnostic methods
Skin prick test: not commercially available.
Immunological dosage: RAST/CAP RAST Formalin.
Bronchial provocation test (in hospital) by inhalation.
The monitoring of peak flow rates at home and work can be useful.


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As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.