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Precautions for formaldehyde exposure in gross anatomy lab

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  • Precautions for formaldehyde exposure in gross anatomy lab

    Hello Dr. Hale and Infant Risk Team, I hope this finds you well. I am incoming PA student and begin gross anatomy in a few weeks. I breastfeed my four-month old. While I would like to continue to nurse/pump through his first year, I am concerned about formaldehyde exposure in the anatomy lab. I am aware that formaldehyde is classified as L4. The lab director informed me that the lab met OSHA standards for phenol and formaldehyde levels at every test for the last twenty years. The embalming solution is 12% phenol, about 2-3% formaldehyde, 25% alcohol, and 25% glycerine plus water. The ventilation achieves 12-15 complete air exchanges per hour.

    If I wear a full-face respirator with formaldehyde cartridges, will this office sufficient protection so I may continue to breastfeed? I expect to spend four to eight hours a week in lab. Or, should I wean my son, who will soon enter day care, to formula?

    Thank you in advance!


  • #2

    Formaldehyde exposure in laboratory or embalming environments is strictly controlled by federal regulations to a permissible level of 2 ppm. Formaldehyde is rapidly destroyed by plasma and tissue enzymes and it is very unlikely that any would enter human milk following environmental exposures. However, acute intoxications following high oral or inhaled doses could lead to significant levels of maternal plasma formic acid which could enter milk. There are no data suggesting untoward side effects in nursing infants as a result of mild to minimal environmental exposure of the mother.

    We suggest if you are wearing OSHA approved protective gear and the lab facility is meeting OSHA guidelines it is probably ok to breastfeed. We suggest changing clothes and showering before feeding the baby.

    Sandra Lovato R.N.
    InfantRisk Center