[Histonet] Formaldehyde ban in Europe

Paul Bradbury histology.bc <@t> shaw.ca
Sat Aug 18 19:53:26 CDT 2007

Several European countries have already banned the use of formaldehyde 
as an embalming fluid; some other countries are considering a ban. There 
has been no suggestion that formaldehyde be banned as a fixative for 
histological purposes. So, we as a group of concerned users, have no 
need to go out searching for alternate fixatives.

Doing a Google search for "formaldehyde ban Europe embalming" produced 
several hundred hits from a wide variety of sources (as most Google 
searches do). Some were relevant, some were from ecological groups 
wanting to ban formaldehyde along with almost everything else, and 
others were from people whose brains had obviously already been pickled 
in some other reagent. From the relevant ones, it seems that the 
embalmers have a history of being less than careful with their 
formaldehyde-containing fluids, consequently some of their group have 
developed formaldehyde-associated disorders. These are all conditions 
that we know about and use appropriate protocols to avoid. Again there 
was no suggestion that formaldehyde be banned as a tissue fixative.

Logically, a total ban on formaldehyde would be impossible. Contrary to 
common beliefs, the amount of formaldehyde used for tissue fixation is a 
tiny fraction of the total amount produced each year. Formaldehyde, in 
huge quantities, is used in the manufacturing of many household and 
commercial products.

The majority of formaldehyde is used in the production of polymers and 
other chemicals. When combined with phenol, urea, or melamine, 
formaldehyde produces a hard resin such as those used in plywood or 
carpeting. It is used as the wet-strength resin added to sanitary paper 
products such as facial tissue, table napkins, and roll towels. They are 
also foamed to make home insulation, or cast into molded products. 
Production of formaldehyde resins accounts for more than half of 
formaldehyde consumption.

Formaldehyde is used to produce glues used in the manufacture of 
particleboard, plywood, veneers, and other wood products as well as 
spray-on insulating foams. The textile industry uses formaldehyde-based 
resins to make fabrics crease-resistant.

Whether the enviromentalists like it or not, formaldehyde is unlikely to 
disappear anytime in the foreseeable future. But, we do need to handle 
it safely and be aware of its dangers.

(It was cool and rainy afternoon here in Kamloops, so no gardening, no 
golf, just a Google search and a few e-mails).

Paul Bradbury,
Kamloops, BC


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