Respiratory symptoms and pathophysiological effects of occupational exposure to formaldehyde and wood dust

Scand J Work Environ Health. 1988 Oct;14(5):306-11. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.1915.


The hazards of exposure to formaldehyde have been widely discussed in recent years on account of the health complaints of exposed persons. Both domestic and occupational exposure to formaldehyde is common. In the present study the effects of formaldehyde alone and in combination with wood dust, another nasal irritant, on the upper and lower respiratory tract have been investigated. The effects were correlated with the duration and degree of exposure. Discomfort from both the upper and lower airways was more frequent in the exposed group than in the unexposed group. Nasal obstruction among the exposed subjects in general could not be detected by rhinomanometric measurements, but, for the group exposed to formaldehyde alone and with a history of nasal blocking, there was significant nasal mucosal swelling. The nasal mucociliary clearance was significantly delayed, and the sense of smell was significantly reduced in the exposed groups when they were compared with the referents. Spirometry showed a significantly decreased forced vital capacity in the exposed groups. There were no signs in this investigation that duration of exposure or level of exposure to formaldehyde would have any influence on the severity of symptoms or the impairment of physiological conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dust / adverse effects*
  • Formaldehyde / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Wood*


  • Dust
  • Formaldehyde