Formaldehyde: An analysis of its respiratory, cutaneous, and immunologic effects

E. J. Bardana, A. Montanaro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Formaldehyde is truly ubiquitous in our ecology and continuing important commercial applications. Most of us have daily contact with this chemical. The most significant outdoor source of this chemical is gasoline and diesel fuel combustion. The primary indoor source is combustion of tobacco products. Formaldehyde is associated with a disagreeable odor that can produce ''annoyance'' symptoms and at higher concentrations can be a transient and completely reversible irritant to the eyes and mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. It is so soluble and rapidly metabolized that it rarely reaches the lower respiratory tract to inflict damage. The exception is in cigarette smokers who actively inhale. Formaldehyde may on rare occasions induce bronchial asthma at relatively high exposure doses. There are no conclusive studies that prove the development of de novo IgE-mediated respiratory tract symptoms secondary to inhalation of formaldehyde vapors. The approach to formaldehyde-induced symptoms should be one of careful documentation of objective physiologic changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-452
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Allergy
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy


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