Magazine article Science News

Unwanted Formaldehyde 'Breakthrough'

Magazine article Science News

Unwanted Formaldehyde 'Breakthrough'

Article excerpt

Few would challenge formaldehyde's toxic status today. Because the chemical is also a strong irritant, not only inhalation but also skin contact is to be avoided. That's why so many biologists, pathologists, embalmers and others whose work requires use of this common chemical must wear protective gloves whenever they handle solutions containing formaldehyde. But how protective are those gloves? Not very, according to data developed under the National Toxicology Program by teams of chemists at Radian Corp. in Austin, Tex., the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and A.D. Little Co. in Cambridge, Mass.

The researchers examined five popular brands of commercial protective gloves commonly used NIEHS -- three models made from natural rubber (known generically as "surgeons' gloves"), and one variety each made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene. Ranging from 0.05 to 0.2 millimeter thick, the material from all gloves permitted formaldehyde concentrations of as little as 8.5 percent in water to break through in 1 to 10 minutes. (Solutions of 33 percent formaldehyde took a few extra minutes to break through. …

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