WASHINGTON – The National Cancer Institute announced that its ongoing study of workers employed at plants that used or produced formaldehyde continues to show a possible link between formaldehyde exposure and death from cancers of blood and lymphatic system, particularly myeloid leukemia.

Since the 1980s, NCI has studied cancer deaths among a group of 25,619 workers, predominately white males, who were employed before 1966 in 10 industrial plants that produced formaldehyde and formaldehyde resin and that used the chemical to produce molded-plastic products, decorative laminates, photographic film or plywood. Researchers said they found that workers with the highest peak exposures had a 37 percent increased risk of death compared to those with the lowest level of peak exposures.

Laura Beane, PhD and lead author of the NCI’s report, said, “The overall patterns of risk seen in this extended follow-up of industrial workers, while not definitive, are consistent with a casual association between formaldehyde exposure and cancers of the blood and lymphatic system and warrant continued concern. Further studies are needed to evaluate risks of these cancers in other formaldehyde-expose populations and to assess possible biological mechanisms.”

The Formaldehyde Council Inc., which represents leading producers and users of formaldehyde in the United States, issued a statement disputing findings of the NCI’s report.

Betsy Natz, executive director of the FCI, said, “Despite acknowledging that their findings are not definitive, the authors of the study took the step of asserting a possible link, rather than practice some prudent epidemiological restraint….In light of this report, FCI reiterates its support for a full scientific review of the health effects of formaldehyde by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.”

Read NCI's press release.

Reach FCI's statement.

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