Potential health hazards for students exposed to formaldehyde in the gross anatomy laboratory

J Environ Health. 2012 Jan-Feb;74(6):36-40.


Formaldehyde, which has been a well-established preservative for cadavers in the anatomy laboratory for years, has an odor that many anatomy students find unpleasant. Anatomy faculty and students, embalmers in funeral homes, histopathology laboratory workers, and other biological researchers are continually exposed to the toxic vapors of formaldehyde. The immediate effects of that agent are nausea, headache, and ocular irritation that causes tear overflow and a burning sensation in the throat. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde can cause contact dermatitis, congenital defects, and cancer. This article discusses the adverse effects of continual exposure to formaldehyde and formalin and suggests various measures that can eliminate or minimize that danger to staff and students in gross anatomy laboratories.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / prevention & control
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Formaldehyde / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Laboratories
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Students


  • Air Pollutants
  • Formaldehyde