Changes in work practices for safe use of formaldehyde in a university-based anatomy teaching and research facility

Paul T.J. Scheepers*, Martien H.F. Graumans, Gwendolyn Beckmann, Maurice van Dael, Rob B.M. Anzion, Maarten Melissen, Nicole Pinckaers, Luuk van Wel, Laurie M.A. de Werdt, Vera Gelsing, Albert van Linge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Anatomy teaching and research relies on the use of formaldehyde (FA) as a preservation agent for human and animal tissues. Due to the recent classification of FA as a carcinogen, university hospitals are facing a challenge to (further) reduce exposure to FA. The aim of this study was to reduce exposure to FA in the anatomy teaching and research facility. Workers participated in the development of improved work practices, both technical and organizational solutions. Over a period of 6 years mitigating measures were introduced, including improvement of a down-flow ventilation system, introduction of local exhaust ventilation, collection of drain liquid from displayed specimens in closed containers and leak prevention. Furthermore, some organizational changes were made to reduce the number of FA peak exposures. Stationary and personal air sampling was performed in three different campaigns to assess the effect of these new work practices on inhalation exposure to FA. Samples were collected over 8 h (full shift) and 15 min (task-based) to support mitigation of exposure and improvement of work practices. Air was collected on an adsorbent coated with 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) and analyzed by HPLC-UV. Geometric mean (GM) concentrations of FA in the breathing zone over a work-shift were 123 µg/m3 in 2012 and 114 µg/m3 in 2014, exceeding the workplace standard of 150 µg/m3 (8 h time-weighted average, TWA) on 46% of the workdays in 2012 and 38% of the workdays in 2014. This exposure was reduced to an average of 28.8 µg/m3 in 2017 with an estimated probability of exceeding the OEL of 0.6%. Task-based measurements resulted in a mean peak exposures of 291 µg/m3 in 2012 (n = 19) and a mean of 272 µg/m3 in 2014 (n = 21), occasionally exceeding the standard of 500 µg/m3 (15 min TWA), and were reduced to a mean of 88.7 µg/m3 in 2017 (n = 12) with an estimated probability of exceeding the OEL of 1.6%.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2049
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume15
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sep 2018

Keywords

  • Carcinogenicity
  • Exposure assessment
  • Occupational hygiene
  • Risk assessment
  • Risk management

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