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Chemical Fact Sheet

Chemical Abstract Number (CAS #) 50000
CASRN 50-00-0
SynonymsFormaldehyde
Methanal
Methylene oxide
Formalin
Analytical Methods EPA Method 554
EPA Method 8315
Molecular FormulaCH2O

Link to the National Library of Medicine's Hazardous Substances
Database for more details on this compound.

Use DISINFECTING DWELLINGS, SHIPS, STORAGE HOUSES, UTENSILS, CLOTHES; GERMICIDE & FUNGICIDE FOR PLANTS & VEGETABLES; DESTROYING FLIES & OTHER INSECTS; MFR PHENOLIC RESINS, ARTIFICIAL SILK & CELLULOSE ESTERS, DYES, ORG CHEM, GLASS MIRRORS, EXPLOSIVES; IMPROVING FASTNESS OF DYES ON FABRICS; MORDANTING & WATERPROOFING FABRICS; PRESERVING & COATING RUBBER LATEX; IN PHOTOGRAPHY FOR HARDENING GELATIN PLATES & PAPERS; TONING GELATIN-CHLORIDE PAPERS; CHROME PRINTING & DEVELOPING; TO RENDER CASEIN, ALBUMIN & GELATIN INSOL; IN CHEM ANALYSIS; TO PREVENT MILDEW & SPELT IN WHEAT & ROT IN OATS; FUMIGANT FIXATION OF HISTOLOGICAL SPECIMENS & IN ALTERATION OF BACTERIAL TOXINS TO TOXOIDS FOR VACCINES. SOLN, USP AS GERMICIDE MAINLY USED IN 2-8% CONCN TO DISINFECT INANIMATE OBJECTS . Other important uses include wood-industry products, molding cmpd, foundry resins, adhesives for insulation, slow-release fertilizers, the manufacture of permanent-press finishes of cellulose fabrics, and formaldehyde-based textile finishes. In manufacturing fatty amides and in precious metal recovery. CHEM INT FOR PHENOLIC, POLYACETAL & MELAMINE RESINS CHEM INT FOR ACETYLENIC CHEMS-ESP, 1,4-BUTANEDIOL CHEM INT FOR POLYOLS-EG, PENTAERYTHRITOL CHEM INT FOR HEXAMETHYLENETETRAMINE CHEM INT FOR METHYLENE DIANILINE (PRECURSOR OF METHYLENE DIANILINE) CHEM INT FOR PYRIDINE CHEMS & NITROPARAFFIN DERIVS COMPONENT OF DYES & DRILLING MUDS AS STARCH PRESERVATIVE EMBALMING AGENT CHEM INT FOR RESORCINOL-FORMALDEHYDE RESINS CHEM INT FOR ANILINE-FORMALDEHYDE RESINS CHEM INT FOR RUBBER-PROCESSING CHEMS SEWAGE TREATMENT AGENT CHEM INT FOR SYNTHETIC TANNING AGENTS COMPONENT OF TRIOXANE FUEL TABLETS CHEM INT FOR HERBICIDES & FERTILIZER COATINGS CHEM INT FOR PHARMACEUTICALS & ELASTOMERIC SEALANTS Chemical intermediate for explosives and bactericides. Soil sterilant in mushroom houses before planting.
Consumption Patterns The largest use of formaldehyde is in the manufacture of amino and phenolic resins, accounting for about 55% of the total demand. Wood products account for about 36% of the total formaldehyde demand, with particle board (chips and sawdust with resin binder) first, and plywood second. Approx 80% of the slow-release fertilizer market is based on urea-formaldehyde-containing products. The manufacture of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid consumes about 75% of the formaldehyde used in the synthesis of chelating agents. The other 25% is used to produce nitrilo acetic acid, primarily for export. Amino resins including urea & melamine, 7.50X10 5 tons. Amino resins molding 5.9X10 4 tons; phenolic resins 6.50X10 5 tons & phenolic molding resins 6.6X10 4 tons; fertilizers 1.80X10 5 tons; textile finishes 6.0X10 4 tons; acetal resins 1.80X10 5 tons; 1.4-butanediol 2.00X10 5 tons; pentaerythritol 1.80X10 5 tons; pyridines 4.0X10 4 tons; methylenediphenyl isocyanate 6.5X10 4 tons; trimethylolpropane 3.5X10 4 tons; & hexamine 1.50X10 5 tons (as 37% formaldehyde, 1978). CHEM INT FOR UREA-FORMALDEHYDE RESINS, 26.5%; CHEM INT FOR PHENOLIC RESINS, 19.6%; CHEM INT FOR ACETYLENIC CHEMS, 8.4%; CHEM INT FOR POLYACETAL RESINS, 7.9%; CHEM INT FOR PENTAERYTHRITOL, 6.7%; CHEM INT FOR HEXAMETHYLENETETRAMINE, 5.5%; CHEM INT FOR UREA-FORMALDEHYDE CONCENTRATES, 5.2%; CHEM INT FOR METHYLENE DIANILINE, 3.9%; CHEM INT FOR MELAMINE RESINS, 3.6%; CHEM INT FOR CHELATING AGENTS, 2.8%; OTHER, 9.9% (1981). Worldwide demand for formaldehyde in 1976 was estimated to be about 7.5X10 6 tons or 60% capacity. During 1985 resins going in to adhesives and plastics amount to more than 60% of demand most of the rest of formaldehyde demand is for use as a chemical intermediate. Urea-formaldehyde resins, 27%; phenolic resins, 21%; 1,4-butanediol, 9%; polyacetal resins, 9%; pentaerythritol, 7%; hexamine, 7%; urea-formaldehyde concentrates, 6%; melamine, 4%; MDI, 4%; other, including exports, 6% (1984). CHEMICAL PROFILE: Formaldehyde. Urea formaldehyde resins, 27%; phenolic resins, 21%; acetylenic chemicals, 11%; polyacetal resins, 8%; pentaerythritol, 7%; hexamine, 5.5%; ureal formaldehyde concentrates, 5.5%; melamine resins, 3.8%; MDI, 4.7%; miscellaneous, 5%. CHEMICAL PROFILE: Formaldehyde. Demand: 1985: 5.8 billion lb; 1986: 6 billion lb; 1990 /projected/: 6.63 billion lb. CHEMICAL PROFILE: Formaldehyde. Urea-formaldehyde resins, 25%; phenolic resins, 22%; polyacetal resins, 9%; pentaerythritol, 7%; hexamine, 6%; urea-formaldehyde concentrates, 6%; MDI, 5%; melamine resins, 4%; miscellaneous, 5%. CHEMICAL PROFILE: Formaldehyde. Demand: 6.73 billion lb; 1989: 6.5 billion lb; 1993 /projected/: 7.6 billion lb. (Includes exports but not imports, both of which are negligible. Last year, exports totaled 19 million lb, and imports totaled 11 million lb.)
Apparent Color Clear, water-white, very slightly acid, gas or liquid. ; Formaldehyde solution is a clear, colorless or nearly colorless liquid
Odor PUNGENT SUFFOCATING ODOR ; Irritating odor. Liquid
Boiling Point -19.5 DEG C
Melting Point -92 DEG C
Molecular Weight 30.03
Density 1.067 (AIR= 1)
Odor Threshold Concentration 0.5 to 1.0 ppm Detection: media= water: 4.99x10 1 ppm Chemically pure Detection: media= water: 2.50x10 1 ppm Purity not specified Recognition: media= air: 1.00 ppm Chemically pure Odor low: 1.4700 mg/cu m; Odor high: 73.5000 mg/cu m
Sensitivity Data Contact with the skin causes irritation, tanning effect, and allergic sensitization. Contact with eyes causes irritation, itching, & lacrimation.
Environmental Impact Formaldehyde is produced in large quantities (5.7 billion lb in 1983) primarily for use in the manufacture of resins and as a chemical intermediate. Much of this use is captive and not released into the environment. Most of the formaldehyde entering the environment is produced directly or indirectly in combustion processes. The indirect production is derived from the photochemical oxidation in the atmosphere by sunlight of hydrocarbons or other formaldehyde precusors that have been released from combustion processes. This tremendous input of formaldehyde is removed by direct photolysis and oxidation by photochemically produced hydroxyl radicals (half-life a few hours). Additional quantities are removed by dry deposition, rain or by dissolving in the ocean and other surface waters. In the aqueous compartment biodegradation takes place in a few days. Human exposure to formaldehyde is from ambient air in heavy traffic, particularly during photochemical smog episodes, occupational atmospheres where resins are used or where formaldehyde is used as a fumigant, disinfectant, embalming fluid, etc. Homes, particularly energy efficient ones, can have high levels of formaldehyde from stoves and the emission of the gas from insulation, furniture, resin-coated rugs and other fabrics.
Environmental Fate TERRESTRIAL FATE: When released on soil, aqueous solutions containing formaldehyde will leach through the soil. While formaldehyde is biodegradable under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, its fate in soil is unknown. AQUATIC FATE: When released into water, formaldehyde will biodegrade to low levels in a few days. Little adsorption to sediment would be expected to occur. In nutrient-enriched seawater there is a long lag period (approximately 40 hr) prior to measurable loss of added formaldehyde by presumably biological processess . Its fate in groundwater is unknown. ATMOSPHERIC FATE: Formaldehyde is released to the atmosphere in large amounts and formed in the atmosphere by the photooxidation of hydrocarbons. This input is counterbalanced by several important removal paths. It both photolyzes and reacts rapidly with reactive free radicals, principally hydroxyl radicals, which are formed in the sunlight-irradiated atmosphere. The half-life in the sunlit troposphere is a few hours. Reaction with nitrate radicals, insignificant during the day, may be an important removal mechanism at night . The initial oxidation product, formic acid, is a component of acid rain . Because of its high solubility there will be efficient transfer into rain and surface water which may be an important sink . One model predicts dry deposition and wet removal half-lives of 19 and 50 hr, respectively . Although formaldehyde is found in remote areas, it is probably not transported there, but rather a result of the local generation of formaldehyde from longer-lived precursers which have been transported there .
Drinking Water Impact DRINKING WATER: Not detected in National Organics Reconnaissance Survey of Suspected Carcinogens in Drinking Water(6). SURFACE WATER: 14 Heavily Industrialized river basins in US - 1/204 sites pos, 12 ppb . Detected only in hypolimnion of stagnant lake in Japan . SEAWATER: Not detected in surface waters . RAIN WATER: Mainz and Deuselbach, Germany and Ireland 0.111-0.174 ppm ; Enewetek Atoll (Central Pacific) 6.2-11.3 ppb ; 5 sites in California - 1/6 samples pos, 0.06 ppm . ICE FOG: Fairbanks, AK - 0.50-1.16 ppm . MIST: 2 sites in California 0.25-0.56 ppm . FOG: 4 sites in California 0-2.3 ppm . EFFL: Detected in 3 effluent streams, two from chemical plants and one from a sewage treatment plant . Effluent from urea and melamine production contained 4% formaldehyde and from phenolic resin production 0.1% formaldehyde . Effluent of plywood industry which uses phenol and urea-formaldehyde resin glue contains formaldehyde .

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