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Carcinogenic Reclassification of Formaldehyde Poses Concern for Consumers

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently reclassified formaldehyde as carcinogenic to humans. In the past, formaldehyde was considered “probably carcinogenic to humans.” However, new research from the IARC shows “there is now sufficient evidence that formaldehyde causes nasopharyngeal cancer in humans...” Formaldehyde is used in the manufacturing of many products, including plastics, coatings, glasswool and rockwool insulation.

The IARC also reports “exposure to formaldehyde occurs in a wide variety of occupations and industries: for example, it is estimated that more than one million workers are exposed to some degree across the European Union.” Among the occupations IARC site for common exposure are embalmers, pathologists, and those associated in the manufacturing of “man-made vitreous fibres, abrasives and rubber…”

While some consumers, such as homeowners, may not be aware of the recent reclassification of formaldehyde as carcinogenic to humans, others may be researching the variety of alternative, formaldehyde-free products on the market. Applegate Insulation, for example, is made without formaldehyde.


Only further research can provide a clearer picture of the effects formaldehyde exposure has on humans. IARC also studied other commonly used chemicals, including two glycol ethers (sometimes used in industrial cleaners) and evaluated these as “not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans, due to the inadequate level of evidence in humans and limited evidence in experimental animals available to the experts.” Clearly, more studies will help consumers evaluate the health risks associated with their purchasing behaviors.

For more information:

IARC coordinates and conducts both epidemiological and laboratory research into the causes of cancer.

Applegate Insulation is the world’s largest, privately owned manufacturer of cellulose insulation.

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