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The Harmful Chemical, Formaldehyde, Needs Worldwide Regulation

Thursday, May 15, 2008 by: Lynn Berry
Tags: formaldehyde, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Recent research reveals that regular exposure to formaldehyde leads to a 34% chance of developing Lou Gehrig's disease. Lou Gehrig's disease is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which is a neurodegenerative disease affecting muscle movement leading to paralysis.

The research conducted by Marc Weisskopf and his team at Harvard University was part of the Cancer Prevention Study II of the American Cancer Society investigating links between exposure to 12 chemical types and cancer. Over a million people participated in the research. The chemicals included pesticides, herbicides and formaldehyde.(1)

As formaldehyde has not been linked to ALS before, Weisskopf says the findings are preliminary and more research is required. Also to be further investigated will be the difference between short term and long term exposure to formaldehyde.

People working in professions where there is regular exposure to formaldehyde are most at risk, and there appears to be a diverse range of professions with such exposure. Carpenters and builders are exposed when working with particle board and other wood products as well as glues; lab technicians, beauticians amongst others are exposed regularly to the chemical.

The prevalence of formaldehyde in a range of products in the home, including clothing and linen, raises safety questions particularly since some clothing contained 900 times the recommended safety limit as found last year in New Zealand. The clothing was children's pyjamas made in China and the findings only surfaced because 2 children were burned when their flannelette pyjamas caught fire.(3)

Formaldehyde occurs in textiles as it is used in printing to fix the colour to the textile surface, and it is used as a preservative to stop mildew. Other uses are to stop creasing, stop shrinkage, to make fabric flame retardant.

Some companies such as Puma have rejected the use of formaldehyde in their products. However, other companies have not, and last year blankets distributed in Australia and New Zealand were recalled after they were found to have high levels of the chemical. In many cases, the high levels are found by accident.

Calls by U.S. politicians to regulate formaldehyde have been prompted by high levels discovered in trailers housing disaster victims of Katrina. Across the world, workers temporarily housed in converted shipping containers in the Northern Territory, Australia, were moved after complaining about the smell likely due to formaldehyde used in the furniture.(2)

Formaldehyde can cause skin and nasal irritations, asthma, and other respiratory problems, and has been linked to lung cancer and leukemia. It can be inhaled through tobacco smoke, gas fires and cookers.(4)

There must be worldwide regulations protecting people. Surely, now with the size of occupational health and safety organisations in various countries, a coordinated effort can be made to protect people in workplaces. With the health system crumbling under huge demand, there's an interest in preventative healthcare which includes protection from harmful chemicals.


1. (www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?arti...)

2. (www.smh.com.au/news/national/intervention-wo...)

3. (www.ecotextile.com/news_details.php?id=647)

4. (www.npi.gov.au/database/substance-info/profi...)

About the author

Lynn Berry is passionate about personal development, natural health care, justice and spirituality. She has a website at www.lynn-berry.com.

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