Cytotoxicity of glutaraldehyde and formaldehyde in relation to time of exposure and concentration

Pediatr Dent. Sep-Oct 1990;12(5):303-7.


The interacting effects of time of exposure and concentration as factors in cytotoxicity were compared for glutaraldehyde and formaldehyde. Cells from a human fibroblast cell line (WI-38) grown to confluence in 24-well trays were exposed to a range of concentrations of each agent, for periods of 4 to 24 hr. Cytotoxicity was measured by its effects on mitochondrial dehydrogenase activity, as assayed biochemically. Cytotoxic effects of formaldehyde occurred over a narrow concentration range from nontoxic to maximally toxic, and the range was little affected by time of exposure. In contrast, glutaraldehyde exerted its effect over a wider concentration range, and longer exposure times were necessary for maximal toxicity. The data suggest that long contact times of glutaraldehyde with dental pulp are necessary for maximum fixation. While 19% formaldehyde appeared to be more toxic than 2.5% glutaraldehyde in terms of serial dilution, little difference in cytotoxicity was observed when the data were calculated in terms of molar concentrations of the two agents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Formaldehyde / toxicity*
  • Glutaral / toxicity*
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Pulpotomy
  • Time Factors


  • Formaldehyde
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Glutaral