Nation/World


Formaldehyde raises cancer risk, NIH says

SUNDAY, JUNE 12, 2011

WASHINGTON – The strong-smelling chemical formaldehyde causes cancer, while styrene, a second industrial chemical that’s used worldwide in the manufacture of fiberglass and food containers, may cause cancer, the National Institutes of Health says.

The NIH said Friday that people with higher measures of exposure to formaldehyde are at increased risk for certain types of rare cancers, including those affecting the upper throat behind the nose.

The chemical is widely used to make resins for household items, including paper product coatings, plastics and textile finishes. It also is commonly used as a preservative in medical laboratories, mortuaries and consumer products including some hair straightening products. The government says styrene is a component of tobacco smoke, and NIH says the greatest exposure to the chemical is through cigarette smoking.

The two chemicals were among eight added to the government’s list submitted to Congress of chemicals and biological agents that may put people at increased risk for cancer.

Also on the list as a known carcinogen is a family of botanical agents called aristolochic acids, shown to cause high rates of cancer in people with kidney or renal disease.


 

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