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Assessment of the health risks associated with the presence of formaldehyde

Updated on 03/08/2018

Keywords : Formaldehyde, Hazardous chemical substance substitution, Indoor air, Chemical risks, REACh (regulation), Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Reference values (RVs), Occupational exposure limits (OELs), Toxicity reference values (TRVs)

Known for its irritant effects, formaldehyde is a substance found mainly in indoor environments where it has multiple sources: construction products, furnishings, detergents, etc. It is also emitted naturally during combustion phenomena (fires, cigarette smoking) and anthropogenic activities (cooking food, using a wood burning stove). Formaldehyde has been classified as "carcinogenic to humans" (Group 1) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) since 2004. Following this classification, ANSES conducted a series of expert assessments concerning the general and occupational populations. In 2011, it also submitted a proposal to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which led to formaldehyde’s European classification being revised to that of Category 1B carcinogen (presumed to have carcinogenic potential for humans) and Category 2 mutagen.

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