Published May 10, 2016
At some point we have all heard the argument “the dose makes the poison” in support of the safety of...
— William Wilberforce
On Feb. 18, 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a corrective report announcing that their previous guidelines pertaining to “safe” levels of formaldehyde off-gassing from laminate flooring made in China had been based on a miscalculation of ceiling height, which resulted in an incorrect mathematical risk analysis.1 Apparently, the error was a simple failure to convert feet to meter,2 in other words, human error.
The revised report stated that the degree of inhaled exposure to formaldehyde, a well recognized carcinogen, and the resulting health risks associated with laminate flooring, were significantly higher than had been described in the previously released Feb. 10, 2016 report. Among the statistics that were changed was that the level of exposure to formaldehyde from the laminate flooring was actually three times higher than had been previously calculated.
Although the revised results have not yet been finalized, the CDC warned that even the low end of the modeled levels of formaldehyde found in indoor air of rooms with laminate flooring could cause respiratory problems for people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and could cause eye, nose, and throat irritation for anyone exposed. Further, they modified the estimated risk of cancer from inhaled formaldehyde exposure upward from between two and nine cases per 100,000 people to between six and 30 cases per 100,000.
The document the CDC originally released3 provided a long list of ways to reduce exposure to the carcinogen, offering such advice as installing wood floors or finishes that are not “acid cured,” a production method that includes use of formaldehyde; checking pressed-wood products like plywood or particleboard that may contain formaldehyde for compliance with accepted safety criteria; avoiding high temperatures in the home; maintaining a 40-50% humidity in rooms; and washing durable-press fabrics that may contain formaldehyde before wearing, among many others.
The report goes into some detail about how to reduce potential existing toxic levels of formaldehyde, such as, “Remove formaldehyde-emitting products from your home,” noting that this will also reduce the chances that porous surfaces in the home may absorb and re-emit formaldehyde into the air at a later time; “Bring large amounts of fresh air into the home,” and increase ventilation by opening windows or using exhaust fans”; “seal the surfaces of formaldehyde-emitting products that are not already laminated or coated,” by using vapor barriers such as sealant paints, varnishes, or another non-formaldehyde-containing substances; and “Install “manufactured-home,” pressed-wood products,” meeting “Ultra Low Emission Formaldehyde (ULEF) or No Added Formaldehyde (NAF) requirements.”
The same report identifies symptoms of formaldehyde exposure, noting that, “Formaldehyde can affect people differently. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde at a certain level while others may not have any noticeable reaction to the same level.” Some of the symptoms mentioned include:
Although levels of formaldehyde in home products have been substantially decreased since the dangers have been exposed, health professionals continue to urge caution and to strive to find ways to reduce formaldehyde exposure via inhalation. And yet, there is complacence about the possible consequences of injecting formaldehyde into our most vulnerable citizens, our infants and children.
Formaldehyde is a well-recognized toxin that is known to cause cancer. Yet, medical authorities insist that the low levels of formaldehyde—generally added to inactivate or detoxify the infecting agent—that may be present in vaccines are safe and can cause no harm to our children. Yet, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials responsible for licensing vaccines state that “formaldehyde is also produced naturally in the human body as part of normal functions of the body to produce energy and build the basic materials needed for important life processes.” FDA officials insist that the low levels of manufactured formaldehyde added to vaccines —to inactivate viruses or detoxify bacterial toxins present in vaccines, are safe and cause no harm to children.4
The FDA states,
Excessive exposure to formaldehyde may cause cancer, but the latest research has shown that the highest risk is from the air when formaldehyde is inhaled from breathing, and occurs more frequently in people who routinely use formaldehyde in their jobs. There is no evidence linking cancer to infrequent exposure to tiny amounts of formaldehyde via injection as occurs with vaccines.4
However, the formaldehyde naturally produced by the body is different from formaldehyde industrially manufactured by chemical companies using methanol.5 As pointed out in the Nov. 9, 2015 TVR article “Formaldehyde: A Poison and Carcinogen,” there are valid questions about the toxicity of injected formaldehyde that remain unanswered.6 There is little data addressing the differences in metabolism that may occur when formaldehyde is not inhaled but injected, as occurs with vaccines, or the differing levels that may or may not be tolerated by infants and children compared with adults. Even animal studies generally look only at inhaled or applied formaldehyde.
Although it cannot take the place of appropriate studies involving cells and tissues, there is one very old study in animals demonstrating that even highly diluted formalin (formaldehyde in liquid) caused serious health issues, regardless of the method of administration. The study’s author reported that intraperitoneal (injected into the body cavity) formalin had “a destructive action” on any organ it came in contact with, including the pancreas, liver, peritoneal fat, and fallopian tubes. Injection into the lungs caused pneumonia and bronchitis, and injection into muscle or under the skin caused significant inflammation. The author concluded that “formalin in whatever way introduced into the body is absorbed, and is then capable of producing lesions” in the affected organs.7
Even though the human body naturally produces formaldehyde and appears capable of processing and eliminating a certain minute level of manufactured formaldehyde when it is encountered in the everyday modern environment, does not mean it is safe to repeatedly challenge the immature immune system of an infant or child with such a toxic substance.
1 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Statement Regarding Formaldehyde in Laminate Flooring Report. National Center for Environmental Health Feb. 18, 2016.
2 McCook A. CDC Fixes Major Error in Flooring Risk Report: Not Converting to Metric. Retraction Watch Feb. 22, 2016.
3 CDC. Original, Uncorrected Report on Formaldehyde Safety.
4 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Common Ingredients in U.S. Licensed Vaccines. FDA.gov May 1, 2014.
5 European Chemical Industry Council. Formaldehyde clean manufacturing. Formacare 2014.
6 Raines K. Formaldehyde: A Poison and Carcinogen. The Vaccine Reaction Nov. 9, 2015.
7 Fischer MH. The Toxic Effects of Formaldehyde and Formalin. JEM Feb. 1, 1905.