Monday, May 14, 2012

Poison in our Foods : Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde甲醛 is an organic compound with the formula CH2O. It is the simplest form of aldehyde, hence its systematic name methanal.

A gas at room temperature, formaldehyde is colorless and has a characteristic pungent, irritating odor.  Commercial solutions of formaldehyde in water, commonly called formalin, were formerly used as disinfectants and for preservation of biological specimens.

In view of its widespread use, toxicity and volatility, exposure to formaldehyde is a significant consideration for human health.


Formaldehyde is used in photography, paints, explosives, as adhesive in making fiberboards, in textile industry to make fabrics crease-resistant, wet-strengthening for sanitary paper products, automobiles components, to make into foam for insulation, etc

It is also used as disinfectant in medical apparatus, for treatment for skin diseases, as treatment for parasites in aquarium, and in cosmetics and personal hygiene products to prevent bacterial growth.

Perhaps the most well known usage of formaldehyde is for preservation of human and animal tissues, and as a fixative for microscopy in histology.

International bans

In the EU, formaldehyde is banned from use in preservatives for liquide-cooling and processing systems, slimicides, metalworking-fuild preservatives, and antifouling products, under the Biocidal Product Directive.  The maximum allowed concentration of formaldehyde in finished products is 0.2%, and any product that exceeds 0.05% has to include a warning that the product contains formaldehyde.

In the United States, the allowable amount of formaldehyde emissions from these wood products to 0.09 ppm, in 2010 Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act.

In Canada, formaldehyde was declared a toxic substance by the 1999 Environmental Protection Act.

Contaminant in food

In the early 1900s, formaldehyde was added in fresh milk as a method of pasteurization.

In 2005, in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Indonesian government found that 60% of noodle shops in Jakarta had been serving noodles laced with formaldehyde.

In 2007, in Vietnam, formaldehyde was found in noodles of the national dish, Ph.  The food scares also involved dangerous banned pesticides in fruit and vegetable, and carcinogen in soy sauce.

In 2010, 2 Carefour hypermarkets in Jakarta were found to had sold cendol contained 10 ppm of formaldehyde.

In 2011, in Nokhon Rachasima, Thailand, a sizeable quantities of rotten chicken treated with formalin were discovered.  

In 2012, some 25 tonnes of mackerel fish worth 1 billion Rupiah ( @ 1 million USD ) imported from Pakistan to Batam, Indonesia were found laced with formaldehyde.

Health Effects

In humans, the ingestion of formaldehyde has been shown to cause vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, and in extreme cases can cause death; in addition, there is limited evidence of a carcinogenic effect.

Formaldehyde inhaled may cause headaches, a burning sensation in the throat, difficulty breathing, and asthmatic symptoms.


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