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What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a dangerous chemical that affects the respiratory system, lungs, eyes, and skin. It is classified as a carcinogen, hazardous substance, and hazardous waste. According to the American Cancer Society, Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong smelling gas used in making building materials and many common household products. It is well known for its preservative and anti-bacterial properties. It is commonly used in building materials such as particle board, pressed wood, insulation, glues and adhesives and more. It is also found in medic2ines, cosmetics, and cleaning products. Formaldehyde is even used in some food products as a preservative.

Why is it dangerous?

Formaldehyde is a dangerous chemical and is a known human carcinogen. It has been linked to cancer in animal studies. One study in mice showed that “applying a 10% solution of formaldehyde to the skin was linked to quicker development of cancers caused by another chemical”. Formaldehyde is common in certain workplaces and studies of industrial workers show increased risk of leukemia and cancers of the nose and throat. Formaldehyde can also be released from plants producing products that contain the chemical, increasing exposure to surrounding neighborhoods

Who is affected?

Since Formaldehyde is commonly found in many products commonly used in the home and workplace, exposure to the public is high. The main way exposure occurs is inhaling the chemical, although the liquid form can also be absorbed through the skin. Because of these routine exposures, formaldehyde is often present in both indoor and outdoor air, though at low levels. Materials containing formaldehyde can release it as a gas or vapor into the air.

There is a section of St. James Parish in Louisiana known as “Cancer Alley”. Cancer Alley is an 85 mile stretch of petrochemical plants and oil refineries along the Mississippi river. Many of these plants release several cancer causing chemicals, including formaldehyde and benzene. People living in this area are 50 times more likely to get cancer than the average American. Rolling Stone calls Cancer Alley the “frontline of environmental racism”. The communities surrounding this toxic stretch of plants consist largely of minority and low income neighborhoods, the poorest people in Louisiana live closest to Cancer Alley. New plants are in the process of getting approved and residents are wary of more poolution including an increase in formaldehyde and other cancer causing chemicals.

To learn more about formaldehyde, click here.

To learn more about Cancer Alley, click here.