While long known to be a harmful substance, formaldehyde was officially declared by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) to be a known carcinogen on June 10th, 2011. Included in the 12th edition of the Report on Carcinogens, formaldehyde was noted to cause otherwise rare nasal, sinus, and throat cancers as well as myeloid leukemia. Formaldehyde had already been listed as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” in prior editions of the report since the 1980s; its updated status to “known carcinogen” was prompted by recent examinations of occupational and animal studies on the effects of prolonged exposure to the gas.
Formaldehyde, a colorless gas with many industrial applications, can be found in furniture glues, car exhaust, plywood and particle wood, building materials, cleaning products, cosmetic chemicals, and biological preservatives, among other places. It is also released during combustion and is therefore generally present in fireplaces, stoves and ovens, smog, and tobacco smoke. Traces of the chemical have been measured in food and drinking water, and our bodies naturally produce formaldehyde in small quantities.