Read over the 280+ pages of the IARC monograph and look at all of the data gathered not only from the plywood industry studies but many other industries. Look at the whole picture and you will see why they found sufficient evidence that formaldehyde causes nasopharyngeal cancer, a rare cancer in humans, limited evidence for cancer of nasal cavity and sinuses, strong but not sufficient evidence for leukemia, and other evidence. As a result, they have determined that formaldehyde belongs in Group 1, defined as "carcinogenic to humans."
What is this discussion really about? Why wouldn't every chemist, safety professional, and college teacher want workers and students to know that formaldehyde and/or paraformaldehyde could be hazardous to their health? What motivates a safety professional or teacher to discount or diminish potential hazards? Does anyone think that college students are so unable to deal with risk that knowing paraformaldehyde might be a carcinogen would send them screaming into the streets? Hell, they think they are immortal.
I personally think we should warn lab workers and students not only about chemicals that are actually listed by IARC, NTP or OSHA, but require them to take precautions with all of the chemicals they use because most of them have never been evaluated for cancer and other toxic effects. This is why the EU REACH program required testing of about 29,000 chemicals high production volume chemicals.
Every lab worker and student should know that only about 900 chemicals have been evaluated for cancer effects. Yet CAS recently registered it's 50 millionth chemical. The last 10 million of these chemicals were registered in 9 months at the rate of 25 chemicals per minute. The primary sources for these new chemicals were patents and chemical catalogs indicating some are already in use. They are out there with no cancer testing at all, since cancer tests take two years.
Even fewer chemicals have been studied for reproductive, developmental, neurological, and other organ system damage on a chronic basis. There is a vast amount we don't know about chemicals. That's why diacetyl, a chemical isolated from butter, is now found responsible for a fatal lung disease when inhaled. And why titanium dioxide thought to be a completely safe substitute for lead white in paints is now listed as an IARC lung carcinogen. And so on, and on, and on.
But there is a simple answer to all of this in the lab, and that is: "no one was ever harmed by a chemical to which they were not exposed!" So do the process in the hood and put on the gloves, goggles, and any other protective equipment required. No exposure? No hazard.
Whew. Thanks. I feel a lot better now. Monona Rossol
As an aside, if formaldehyde WERE a nasal carcinogen Washington and Oregon as leading producers of plywood , made using formaldehyde adhesives, should have extraordinary numbers of nasal cancers in their cancer registries. I do not think that is the case. In any analysis one would also have to consider wood dust as a potential carcinogen. Damm, life does get complicated when you have to consider all the facts!!
Advisor, Toxicology and Human Health Risk Analysis
13701 Quaking Aspen Place NE
Albuquerque, NM 87111
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